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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

I have this propensity to make something I have never tried before when I have people coming over for dinner. I don't know why I do that because what if it doesn't turn out well or even taste good? And how would I know? But I guess my regular meals of canned chili, mac and cheese, cereals, and eggs on toast wouldn't go over too well either. Hey, don't judge, my husband is not there for about 90 percent of our dinners. And I can always use the excuse of having never made it before if my guests don't like the meal.

So, of course, last year, when inviting our sister missionaries from church over for dinner, I decided to make these that I had seen on my good friend Christy's blog. Because, really, she never leads me astray and she didn't yet again. The missionaries kept telling me how amazing of a cook am I which is a big fat lie. I can follow a basic recipe and that is about it. But these have amazing flavor and hey, I'll take any compliment I can regarding the kitchen! And this recipe makes two pans so you can freeze one or take one to someone else for dinner.

Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells

1 (12-ounce) box uncooked jumbo pasta shells, although you might want more in case some of the shells break during cooking
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups fresh chopped spinach
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15oz) container ricotta cheese
2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened, you probably could just use one
1 (5oz) package shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (26oz) jar prepared spaghetti sauce, more if wanted

1. Cook shells according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook them or they will tear easily when trying to fill them. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease two 9x13 baking dishes.

3. In a large bowl, combine chicken and all the rest of the ingredients except mozzarella and spaghetti sauce. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella. Spoon into shells. *Tip: For easier filling, fill a gallon ziplock baggie with the filling and snip a quarter size hole off the corner of the bag. Then you can just pipe the filling into the shells.

4. Spread half of spaghetti sauce into prepared baking dishes. Arrange shells over sauce; top with remaining sauce. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. If you are freezing one of the 9x13 prepared pans, freeze it after this step. Include a baggy of the remaining mozzarella for when you cook it.

5. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings.

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