Ricotta Cheese and Chicken Stuffed Pasta Shells

Last night my 17 year old daughter and her boyfriend celebrated their 10th Anniversary. He's made dinner for her twice in the past, so this time she decided to make dinner for him. She spent the morning looking over menu ideas and decided on Chicken and Ricotta Stuffed shells, broccoli, a 7 layer salad and a European Truffle layered dessert.

She went to the grocery store and did her shopping for the ingredients we didn't have and she set to work making the entire meal, then set the table with a table cloth, china, water goblets and wine glasses (for the sparkling grape juice she bought) and finished it all with a basket of my homemade bread and candles in the center. It was beautiful and smelled so heavenly when she was cooking it all!

So in honor of my daughter not only making stuffed shells from scratch but improvising (like I always hope my blog readers will do!!!) She didn't use a recipe... she simply read a few recipes and got a list of ingredients she would use and then she added spinach to the mixture and had fun with it. I give you....

Cheese and Chicken Stuffed Pasta

Large pasta shells, cooked just al dente and drained
cottage cheese
parmesan cheese
feta cheese
frozen, thawed and drained spinach
olive oil
Italian seasoning mix
minced fresh garlic
finely diced onion
cooked, diced chicken breasts (she used grilled - it was delicious!)
spaghetti sauce
*You could even add a little bit of diced red or green peppers and diced mushrooms if you like them!

Line the shells in a baking dish you've poured some spaghetti sauce in. Saute fresh minced garlic and diced onion in a little olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. A teaspoon or a tablespoon of each... it depends on how much you like garlic and onions and how many pasta shells you are making! Add the chicken (amount up to you... up to a pound but you want the cheese to be the star of the show), then the spinach. When it's warmed through and the flavors are mixed place it in a bowl and mix in amounts of each of the cheeses you want to use as well as a little Italian seasoning herbs (about 1-2 teaspoons).

One container of ricotta or cottage cheese is an excellent 'start' followed by a mixture of amounts of the other cheeses you have on hand. Use about 1/4 cup of each or perhaps 1/2 c of something such as mozzarella. Remember; have fun with it, be creative and don't be scared of not measuring in a recipe like this.

Place a heaping scoop of cheese and chicken mixture in each shell, placed side by side in the pan. Cover with your favorite spaghetti sauce, a lot if you are like my husband or a little if you are like me and like the taste of the cheese and pasta with just a touch of sauce. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, remove the foil, sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese and finish cooking for another 5 minutes or so.

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