Daylight savings time not only heralds an extra hour of daylight, but also more challenging mealtimes for many Connecticut families. Spring sports for children and teenagers are beginning, with early evening baseball, soccer, and lacrosse practices cutting into dinnertime and making family meals tough to juggle. Working parents coming home on temperate evenings often want to squeeze in a walk with the dog or a game of catch with the kids, enjoying the last of the day’s fresh air and sunlight, before turning to the less desirable task of making dinner. Families need meals that can be made ahead of time and which can be reheated and eaten when the opportunity strikes.
Chicken and spinach stuffed shells is a perfect option for one of those busy spring nights. This filling one-dish meal is sure to please every family member and prepare them for wherever the evening takes them. Protein-packed chicken and dairy-free cheese, nutrient-rich spinach, and the comforting combination of savory tomato sauce and pasta is a great pre-activity or post-activity meal. If you haven’t cooked with Daiya cheese products before, you’ll be surprised at how beautifully the mozzarella shreds melt and combine with the other flavors in the dish to create a casserole even dairy-lovers will be happy to eat. The shells taste even better reheated in the microwave after they’ve been baked, and leftover cooked shells can be frozen for later use. All of the ingredients in this dish can be found at Whole Foods Markets across Connecticut. The recipe makes 6 servings.
1 12-oz. box jumbo pasta shells
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound ground chicken
freshly ground pepper
1 lb bag frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry of water
3/4 cup plus 3/4 cup mozzarella-style shreds, divided (Daiya recommended)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups good-quality store-bought marinara sauce, such as Rao’s
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cook shells in boiling water for about 5 minutes, until tender but still very firm. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 4 minutes, until onions are soft, stirring frequently.
4. Add the ground chicken and salt and pepper to taste, stirring often, until the meat is browned. Add spinach and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
5. When chicken mixture is cool, place in a large bowl and combine with the 3/4 cup cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with 1 cup of marinara sauce. Using a tablespoon, stuff each shell with the chicken mixture, about 2 tablespoons per shell.
7. Arrange the stuffed shells in the baking dish and pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella shreds over the sauce.
8. Bake uncovered, until shells are warmed through and cheese is fully melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve, or let cool, refrigerate, and reheat portions in the microwave as needed.
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