Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pesto, Spinach, & Chicken Stuffed Shells

Recently, I have joined Pinterest. I am learning to slow down with my new obsession...Having Pinterest has allowed me to throw away several scrap papers--and yet virtually 'pin' my favorite images--and categorize them on bulletin boards. It's fun to see what your friends are pinning too! Somewhere along the way, someone pinned this awesome recipe. It looked superb. So, I was inspired to try it recently for our family and for a friend to whom I was taking a meal. It was well received and therefore, has become a keeper.

By the way, it's sort of nice to try a stuffed shell recipe that doesn't require tomato sauce, but don't let that stop you if you're a sauce kind of person--you just go ahead and spread some sauce over the shells if you can't stand not seeing red sauce over pasta.

And as I tend to do with these things, I adapted the recipe because the stuffing seemed a little dry to me (I didn't use as much pesto because I didn't want too overwhelming of a flavor). Below is a double recipe (I boiled the whole box of pasta and used about 75% of the shells--the other 25% had fallen apart anyway) and got two 8x8 pans of the dish. However, if you were having a big group for dinner, you could do a big 9X13 inch pan. Consider this a freezer friendly meal.


Makes approximately 10 servings.

  • 24-36 jumbo pasta shells
  • water for boiling pasta
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6 oz) bag of baby spinach (rinsed & chopped)
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese + 1/3 cup MORE for topping
  • 4-5 Tbsp. prepared basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. Cook pasta shells only until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the onion is almost transclucent. Add the chopped spinach and cook for a minute longer or until spinach has JUST wilted.

Because I'm trying to use less dishes, add the cheeses (reserving that 1/3 cup of Parmesan), pesto, olive oil, yogurt, and shredded chicken to the pot (where you have sauteed the onion/garlic/spinach). Combine. 

Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish (either two 8X8 inch pans--can freeze one of them! or a 9X13 inch pan). Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of cheese over filled shells.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells (uncovered) for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese has melted.

Serve with a fresh salad. Or with diced, fresh tomatoes on top.

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