Cheesy Chicken Shells (Veggie Version too)

Cheesy Chicken Shells (There is a lot of prep work, but I usually make more then I need for the recipe and use it for other recipes throughout the week.  For instance I will grill 2 onions and extra broccoli and sausage and save the extra for a homemade pizza or other meal latter in week.  This recipe should make a few casseroles….freeze one)

To Make a Veggie Version, just omit the chicken and sausage, still very yummy.

Ingredients~Box of big shell pasta
~1 yellow onion – chopped, sauteed in olive oil and set aside
~ 2 cloves of garlic – chopped, sauteed & set aside (can do with onions)
~8 ounces of spinach (if frozen, thaw and drain well) or can saute fresh until soft.
~1/2 cup of heavy cream
~8 oz container of ricotta cheese
~1 cup of chopped, roasted broccoli (I chop, spread on cookie sheet, spray with olive oil, pepper and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese to roast)
~2 cups shredded, baked chicken
~2 tbsp. fresh parsley
~2 tbsp. fresh green onion
~4 oz cream cheese
~1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
~1 and 1/4 cup of favorite cheeses shredded (I use a mix of organic mozzarella, artisan white sharp Cheddar and Tuscan crusted Parmesan)
~1 tsp of nutmeg
~1 tsp of cinnamon
~1/2 lb of mild or hot sausage
~1 tbsp. real maple syrup

~Prep Veggies (onions, garlic, spinach, parsley & broccoli), chop, roast saute as directed above – Set aside
~Prep Chicken (bake, chop), Set aside
~Cook Sausage in pan so it crumbles and caramelizes a bit, when finished, sop up grease with paper towel, then stir in maple syrup to coat. Set aside
~Boil shells as directed on box.  I like mine a little undercooked, since they will cook more in oven. Let cool.
~In a large sauce pan heat heavy cream, add nutmeg, cinnamon, whole wheat flour, cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and black pepper to taste.  Heat until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Set aside.
~In a large bowl combine desired amount of sausage, chicken ricotta cheese, onions, broccoli, spinach, parsley, green onion and mix until well combined.

~Grease a few large casserole dishes. 
~Fill each shell with ricotta mix and place with shell opening facing up in pan, until pans are filled with shells.
~Pour cream and cheese mix over shells until well coated.
~Sprinkle remaining cheese on top
~Bake at 350 until bubbling @ 20 – 30 minutes.
~If freezing one, do not bake first, just cover with Saran wrap so wrap is touching the sauce and shells and no air is left.  Then cover with tin foil and freeze.  Let thaw completely before baking as directed above. ENJOY!

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