Chicken-Stuffed Shells With Tomato-Cream Sauce
My family and I enjoy a good pasta dish and are always on the lookout for a new one to try. Occasionally, I come up with one of my own, and the dish in this article is one of them. It is quick and easy to make; so easy, in fact, that you can have your kids help you with it (I myself had a junior helper assist me for this article). I hope your family likes this dish as much as mine does!
- 22 pasta shells, (about 1/2 a box)
For the filling:
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
For the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 heaping tablespoons flour
- 3-3/4 cups milk
- 1/4 cup white cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cups grated asiago cheese
- 1 tablespoon parsley, (optional)
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- Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and set it aside.
- Boil pasta shells according to package directions; add a tablespoon of olive oil to the water to keep the noodles from sticking to one another.
- While the noodles are cooking, prepare the chicken filling. Combine the ground chicken, parmesan cheese, spinach, bread crumbs, and seasonings together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring well to make sure everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Once the pasta shells are done, allow them to cool for a couple of minutes so they will not burn your hands. Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture, setting the filled shells in the greased baking dish in a single layer. (If there is a little chicken left over, just distribute it evenly among the shells.)
- Prepare the sauce once the shells are filled. Melt the butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, allowing it to brown slightly. Add the flour to the butter and stir it in well. Cook for about a minute, then slowly begin to add the milk. You will have to stir constantly at this point to prevent lumps from forming in the sauce. Once all the milk has been added, pour in the cooking wine. Next, add the seasonings, then the tomato paste. Stir the paste in thoroughly before adding half the shredded cheese to the sauce. Once the first part of the cheese has melted, add the other half. Allow the sauce to cook for a couple of minutes after this.
- Pour the sauce over the stuffed shells. Sprinkle the parsley over the sauce. Cover the baking dish with tinfoil and cook the shells on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes. Once it is done, remove the foil from the dish and allow the shells to cool for a minute or two before serving.
- I don't recommend making the sauce until the shells are filled, as the sauce needs to be stirred constantly. Also, if it stands for too long once it is done, it will thicken too much.
- If you don't have white cooking wine, simply increase the milk in the sauce to 4 full cups. Make sure to also add slightly less than 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the sauce to make up for the salt that using the cooking wine would have added to the dish.
- Have lasagna noodles but no pasta shells? You can still make this dish! Just boil 10 lasagna noodles as you would for a lasagna. Cut them in half once they are cooked, then place the chicken filling in the middle of the noodle pieces. Fold the long ends around the filling and place the rolls with the loose ends down in the pan. Cover with the sauce and cook as directed.