Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pesto Stuffed Shells

It's the first recipe of 2017! Yipee!

11 days into the new year and I'm finally getting around to posting about what I do best- FOOD! This recipe is a keeper, I'm telling you. Perfect for a frigid winter day full of ice and snow which I know a lot of us are dealing with right now. We only got about 2-3 inches last week and most of it melted on Monday. Today's temperature is supposed to be a lot warmer though (thank goodness!) because it's been a week of temperatures in the teens. Brrr! But I guess our snow is nothing compared to what's been going on in my former home of Oregon. They are getting more snow than I've ever remembered them getting, and we never got much snow when I was growing up. A snow day here or there, but not this much! In my mind, it's the perfect weather for staying in and popping a carb-a-licious casserole into the oven for dinner ☃️

Talk about comforting on a cold day! Chewy pasta shells filled with a creamy ricotta and pesto mixture, slathered in a rich marinara sauce that's been doctored up with mushrooms and ground beef, all topped with melted cheese. 

Who can pass that up? Definitely not me! 😂

I like this as a change from traditional lasagna. Plus, I don't usually use pesto in my traditional lasagna so there's a whole other flavor dimension from that. If you use pre-made pesto, you can also save time making this. Granted, pesto only takes like 10 minutes to make, but when you are short on time, every minute counts! Additionally, if you use a pre-made spaghetti sauce, you'll also save a bundle of time. I actually added ground beef and mushrooms to one of my frozen bags of homemade marinara to come up with this sauce. Since my marinara cooks all day, using pre-made really saved time. But I did have to add ingredients to my marinara so by all means, prepare that ahead of time if you wish. 

I'd had these unusually shaped shells in the pantry for awhile. I finally decided it was time to get them out of there. Feel free to substitute the regular-looking large shells you find at the grocery store. 

I took some pesto out of the freezer to save time.

To prepare the sauce, I pulled a bag of marinara from the freezer (4 cups marinara) and let it defrost. I sautéed 1-lb of ground beef in a large pot and then drained it. After draining the ground beef, I added the marinara sauce to the pot and brought the pot to a simmer. Once simmering, I added the mushrooms and let it cook for 7-10 minutes. Fast, easy, and most of all, delicious sauce!

Next, combine pesto with ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and an egg. Spread a good amount of sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan, fill shells with the pesto-mixture, and place shells in pan. 

Coat with more sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and bake!

Look at all that cheesy goodness! 🧀

You will have leftover sauce, so I spread a little on my plate before I put the shells on there. Jessica loves her some sauce! 😜

Tuck this in your back pocket for your next snow day. Trust me, people sitting down at the table will love this dish after a chilly winter's day. Pasta is one of my favorite comfort foods on any day, but especially cold days. And, well, so is cheese! Two birds, one stone 😂

Stay warm out there my friends! Especially my Oregonian friends! As for me here in Kentucky, it's supposed to be 62º tomorrow 😳

Yeah, totally normal weather. Riiiiiight. 

I hope everyone is having a terrific week so far! Happy Wednesday!

Recipe adapted from: Love & Zest

Ingredients (serves 5):

Sauce (you will have leftover sauce)-
1 lb ground beef, 90/10 mix
4 cups Homemade Marinara (you can sub store bought)
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Homemade Pesto (you can sub store bought)

20 jumbo pasta shells, prepared according to package directions

garnish- freshly chopped parsley, grated parmesan (optional)


1. Prepare the sauce- in a large skillet cook ground beef, stirring to crumble. Cook until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Drain hamburger, then place skillet back on heat. Add marinara sauce and bring skillet to a simmer. Add mushrooms to the skillet, and simmer for 7-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat. 
2. Prepare the filling- in a mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg,  3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, and pesto. Stir to incorporate. 
3. Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
4. Spread 1-1 1/2 cups of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Stuff each shell with a tablespoon of cheese mixture, then place shell in marinara sauce. Repeat with all shells. Once shells are all stuffed, ladle another 1-1 1/2 cups sauce onto the shells, and top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil from dish and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with parsley, if using. Let sit for 5 minutes, then divide shells among plates. Top with parmesan cheese, if using. Serve!

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  1. That looks so warm and comforting! It's sunny and cold today but tomorrow brings freezing rain and wind so I'm thinking that this would be perfect with some thick eat on and off all day! :)

    1. Brr! I hope you guys are tucked away at home and safe from the freezing rain! I hate freezing rain. And I agree, this would be perfect to eat on and off on a cold day! 😁

  2. You are sooo right, this is the perfect recipe for these winter days. Anything that keeps me in the house instead of outside on the ice is the safe way to go! We have been getting more ice than anything this month, so it's getting treacherous out there.

    Love your idea of using some of the leftover sauce for plating the pasta!

    1. I agree! Anything to stay in the house! I wish I had an excuse to stay home today! 😂

      I hope the ice eases up in your neck on the woods. Have a great weekend Kris!


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