Pasta Risotto & You

By Nancy Caivano


Chicken Stuffed Shells
with Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 6


One lb pasta shells for stuffing
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

For filling:
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
   (or 1 tbsp jar chopped garlic)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh, chopped spinach
One lb ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley (or 2 tbsp dry)
3 tbsp basil, julienne (or 1 tsp dry)

For sauce:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
10 cloves garlic, chopped
   (or 2 tbsp jar chopped garlic)
2 carrots, finely chopped
Two 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
   (if you access to some nice tomatoes,
   you can substitute about 2 lb ripe tomatoes)
One 28-oz can tomato purée
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried)
3 tbsp basil, julienne (or 2 tsp dry)
3/4 cup heavy cream


Cook shells according to package directions. Take 6 minutes off of cooking time. Drain well, cool under cold running water, and toss with a minimal amount of olive oil (or cooking spray) to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Cut into small pieces. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

In same skillet, cook garlic, onion, carrot, celery and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 minutes. Add spinach, and cook 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine chicken and spinach mixture. purée in a food processor or blender. (If you have a small machine, do this in batches.)

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, egg, Romano, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add chicken purée and combine very well. Chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare sauce. In a large stockpot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and carrot, and sauté until onion begins to brown. Add tomatoes and purée. Stir well. Add wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add parsley and basil to sauce, and cook 15 minutes more. Working in batches, purée sauce in blender; return to same pot. (If you have a handblender, you can use it right in the pot). Add cream and simmer 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large baking pan well with cooking spray. Place a thin layer of sauce in bottom of baking pan.

Stuff shells with chicken mixture. (I find a pastry bag with no tip is ideal for this. If you don't have one, try a demitasse spoon.) Mixture should come to top of shells.

Place shells in baking pan in a single layer. When all shells are filled, cover with sauce. Top with grated provolone, and parsley.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cheese should be golden and sauce should be bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

You can substitute half-and-half, or evaporated skim milk for the cream.

The cream sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead.

The entire dish can be made ahead of time and frozen (either baked or unbaked). Cover top with plastic wrap then aluminum foil. If unbaked: remove plastic wrap, and re-wrap with foil. Place in a low oven (250 degrees F.) and bake until a knife is easily inserted. Then raise heat to 350 degrees F. And bake as above. If baked: remove plastic wrap and rewrap with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F. until hot.


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This page created March 1999