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I don't know about you, but our family doesn't have the chance to dine out at nice restaurants very much these days. It typically involves long wait times, it can get expensive really quickly, and with two active young boys, well - this mama has to come prepared with a pretty big stash of crayons and action figures to make sure we all survive.
But at the end of a long day, who doesn't love sitting down to a delicious Italian dinner, complete with buttery breadsticks?
The good news: you can make your own restaurant-style pasta dishes at home, starting with these Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells! In fact, today's recipe is featured in the Family Faves 10-Meal Kit, which has everything you need to make 10 fun and kid-friendly meals the whole family will love.
Creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Rich tomato sauce with savory spices. Tender chicken and pasta. Now I know these stuffed shells look kind of fancy. But don't worry - they are actually really simple to make!
Ready to get started?
How to Make 'Em Tonight
Here's a quick rundown with step-by-step photos. You can also see the full recipe here >
Step 1: The Pasta & Pesto
Heat a large kettle of water to boiling and preheat your oven to 375°F. Toss 26 jumbo pasta shells into the boiling water and cook as directed on the package. (Tip: a few shells might break, so feel free to toss in a couple extras!)
Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl, combine 2 tablespoons Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto Mix, 2 tablespoons water and 1½ tablespoons olive oil.
Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute; set aside pesto to cool.
Step 2: The Filling
In a large bowl, mix 3 cups cooked and chopped chicken (such as rotisserie), 1 (15 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella and the reserved pesto mixture. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.
Step 3: The Sauce
In a small bowl, combine 1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes with 2 tablespoons Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto Mix.
Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish, like so ...
Step 4: The Assembly
Fill the pasta shells with the chicken mixture and nestle them into your baking dish. Then pour the remaining sauce over the top of the stuffed shells.
Sprinkle with an additional ½-1 cup shredded mozzarella and cover with foil.
Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 15 additional minutes. Serve warm, dished up with a side of Garlic Bread Sticks.
Voila! You've got a fantastic family dinner, filled with Old-World flavor. And the best part? No reservations required.
Tips & Hints
- Serve with mixed greens, roasted asparagus or sautéed green beans.
- Did you know that you can typically buy rotisserie chicken from your deli counter that’s already chopped? Seriously, it changed my life. It’s a terrific time-saver, and there's no mess on your kitchen counter!
- If you prefer, substitute cooked ground beef or Italian sausage in place of chopped chicken.
- Since this is a generous recipe, you can actually prepare it in a couple 8 x 8 pans or 1½-quart casserole dishes like I did instead of a big 13 x 9 pan. Our family baked one small dish this week, and then I tossed the other one into the freezer so it will be an instant just-bake-it dinner next week. So easy!