Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stuffed shells with chicken, sausage, spinach and pesto (dairy-free!)

I am constantly on the lookout for pasta dishes that my whole family will enjoy, which means they have to be dairy-free, mushroom-free (my husband hates mushrooms), and delicious. Since pasta is almost always paired with cheese, it's been tough. I am constantly seeing great, easy recipes for pasta meals, but they always, ALWAYS contain cheese. So, out of frustration and determination, I decided to invent one of my own...and thankfully it was a success!

I was inspired by a bag of jumbo pasta shells I recently bought at the store. I know stuffed shells are traditionally filled with lots of cheese, but I decided to stuff them with meat and veggies instead.

Here's what I stuffed my shells with:

1 link of chicken sausage (I chose chicken basil sausage from our local natural foods grocer since it contains traditional Italian seasonings). Slice open the casing and mix the sausage with...

1/2 pound of ground chicken. Mix the chicken and chicken sausage together in a pan and cook until no longer pink.

Put the cooked chicken & sausage mixture into a bowl and mix with a few spoonfuls of pesto (pre-made pesto is fine if you don't have dairy issues, but I made my own dairy-free version which contained fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, olive oil, and salt).

Then add some chopped spinach (either fresh or frozen would be fine...I used frozen, which I thawed and squeezed to get out the excess water).

Finally, add 1 beaten egg (to help bind the ingredients).

Boil the shells until they are "al dente," then stuff them with the mixture. Coat the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan with marinara sauce. Then place the shells side by side in the pan, filling side up. Spoon some more marinara over the top of the shells. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. If you want to add cheese, you can uncover the pan and sprinkle some mozzarella cheese over the top, then bake for a few extra minutes unti the cheese melts.

I have to say, although I did add cheese to a portion of this dish, it was still delicious without it. And Sydney loved that the shells were kind of like pasta tacos, which she could pick up and eat.

At least now I can add a little variation to the meatballs, marinara & noodles that we eat so often. And soon I will dedicate a special post to dairy-free pesto, which can be used in so many different ways to add flavor to dishes without adding cheese.


  1. That sounds good! You know that when I finally come visit you, I'm expecting awesome cooking, right?

  2. Yum.... can you cook for me???!!! I suck at it in comparison to you!! Well truth be told i just suck at it period!

  3. We love pesto, but I have always made it with cheese. Your reicpe sounds delicious......must try it sometime. See you soon!!

  4. Adam, I'm afraid if you came to visit me, you'd see that I truly live a double life and spend half the time cooking great meals, and the other half of the time eating popcorn.

    Kelly, I'm sure you don't suck at cooking! I'm finding it's not as complicated as I used to think. I used to think I had to use exotic spices and elaborate recipes to make a great meal, now I'm all about keeping it simple.

    Mom, see you soon! I'm sure you can attest to my "double life" when it comes to cooking since you always starve when you visit, LOL!!!