Yay more pasta! I could seriously eat pasta every day and never get tired of it. Especially because there are so many types of pastas, sauces, fillings, and more! So forgive me if you tire of these gratuitous pasta dishes. I never do.
So get this, the first time my husband ever ate pesto was only a couple of years ago. He saw it on a restaurant menu, and didn’t even really know what it was. I told him that I LOVE it, and the smell of pesto always reminds me of the summer I spent in Italy. So he gave it a try. Though he did enjoy it, he didn’t feel so good after our dinner. He hadn’t eaten anything else unusual that day, but by the following day, he felt much better. We wondered if he was allergic to pesto. It was the only thing he’d never eaten before. I found this terribly saddening and a downright travesty. Because if he did truly have a pesto allergy, then I could never cook anything that included pesto. He didn’t eat it again for a long time, but one day he worked up the courage to try it again to test out our allergy theory. And HOORAY! Turns out he’s not allergic. Since then, we’ve had quite a few pesto dishes. And much to my delight, he has enjoyed them all.
These stuffed pasta shells are REALLY good and surprisingly filling. Pesto just has such a powerful, distinctive flavor. And the cheese….well, cheese is good on anything. You could easily leave out the chicken and make this a vegetarian meal, too. Plus, these are just as good reheated. I had leftovers for lunch and they are still delicious! This recipe also came with freezing instructions in case you want to plan ahead and have an easy meal on hand later!
Pesto Chicken Pasta Shells
Source: What’s Cookin’ Chicago?
12-16 jumbo pasta shells (for me, the cheese mixture filled exactly 12 shells, but you’ll want to boil extras in case some tear apart)
water for boiling pasta
4oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese + 1/4 cup for topping (I topped mine with 1/4 cup mozzarella instead)
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
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 bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 cup of cheese for the topping. Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.
* To make ahead/freezer meals - Prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells, cover and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.