There are certain foods that I probably should have grown up eating, but somehow did not. Coming from an Italian family (complete with little Italian mother who had a penchant for throwing shoes and occasionally threatening to smack your hand with a wooden spoon), you might be surprised to learn that I did not grow up eating stuffed shells. I suppose I knew what they were, but I don’t recall a single instance of having them homemade as a child.
I didn’t realize this until the other day, when I saw a box of jumbo shells at the grocery store and couldn’t walk away from the opportunity of making a dish that I probably should have eaten a thousand times by now. I was a little worried that they were going to be a mess or difficult to handle, but I figured it out and these were, by far, worth it.
Conveniently, Alex had never had stuffed shells. He’d never even come across them and I had to explain what they were. He and I were more than pleased with how delicious these were. They’re easily made vegetarian by omitting the chicken, but if you eat meat then give it a try. I used leftovers from a chicken I’d roasted the night before and it worked perfectly.
These would probably freeze well, which is perfect for make-ahead meals and helps since this makes many large servings, but I doubt you’ll have trouble finishing them.
chicken florentine stuffed shells
makes 8 servings
1 box jumbo shells
4 cups (32 ounces) fresh ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
3/4 cup grated parmesan, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups baby spinach, torn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 cups marinara sauce
Bring a salted pot of water to boil and drop in the shells. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the shells are al dente. Drain the shells and set them aside, separated so they don’t stick together. You want them to be soft enough to be pliable, but not too soft that they fall apart. Meanwhile combine the following in a large bowl: ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, eggs, chicken, baby spinach, garlic, parsley, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan. Carefully stuff roughly two tablespoons of cheese filling into each shell and line them up in the pan. Repeat until all of the shells are full, squeezing the final few into the pan where you can find room. Spread the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle the rest of the parmesan and mozzarella over the top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling.