Ever have one of those weeks when you wished you could have something prepared in advance to be baked later? Well if your week is as busy as mine, then this recipe is a perfect option. The entire pan can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You may need to add a few additional minutes to the cooking time. This dish can also be easily stored in the freezer for up to a month. You will also need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
The use of fresh spinach added wonderful flavor to the chicken, and the selection of cheeses offer a great creamy texture with every bite. I bet you are wondering why on earth a tablespoon of mayonnaise was incorporated into the ingredients list. Nope, it was not a typo. While testing the recipe, I decided it needed a slight bit of zing to balance out the mellow flavors of the cheese. I tried several options like sour cream, lemon juice and even hot sauce. Nothing worked out better than a simple tablespoon of mayo.
- 20 – 22 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 ½ lb. lean ground chicken
- 1 cup fresh spinach, minced
- 1 Tbl. garlic, minced
- 2 Tbl. olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 Tbl. mayonnaise
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 2 ½ cups spaghetti sauce
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until slightly tender, but not fully cooked. Drain well.
- In a small bowl toss the spinach and ground chicken with a fork until completely incorporated. Sauté the garlic and olive oil together for 30 seconds in a preheated medium-sized sauté pan. Do not let the garlic burn. Add the chicken mixture to the pan and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through. Set aside to cool.
- In a medium mixing bowl, toss the ricotta, mozzarella, egg, mayonnaise, salt and pepper until well combined. Finally, add the chicken mixture to the cheese filling and stir until completely incorporated. Set aside.
- Lightly spray a 9” x 13” baking pan with cooking spray. Evenly spread 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce along the bottom of the pan. Fill each pasta shell with the chicken filling and line the pasta in the baking pan open side up. Top the pasta shells with the remaining spaghetti sauce and sprinkle the entire top with parmesan cheese.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.