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Mexican Stuffed Shells

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Forget what you know about stuffed pastas and open your mind to the possibilities with my Mexican Stuffed Shells.DSC05883

Mother Cookie made stuffed shells all the time when I was a kid, but never like this. Her shells were traditional ricotta filling-stuffed and covered with marinara and more cheese. That’s why I was surprised when she was the one who suggested this Mexican twist. My mama doesn’t throw recipe ideas at me all the time, but when she does, they’re always on point.

I only need one word to describe this dish: “hearty.” Wow, I couldn’t believe how satisfying and filling it was! Yes, it involves pasta, but there’s so much of that soul-warming taco filling that the bulk of your meal is coming from the filling, not the noodles. So I feel like I got to enjoy pasta without having to feel that bad about it.

There’s so much good stuff jam-packed into every bite: beans, avocado, tomatoes, and potato. You’ll find yourself getting something different in each bite, which is half the fun. If your food bores you, then you’re eating the wrong thing.

Whether it’s pasta night or taco night in your house, switch it up with these Mexican Stuffed Shells and enjoy a little bit of both.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Sharp cheddar cheese or pepper jack make a great topping for this.
  2. If you like things spicy, try adding some diced jalapeno to the filling.
  3. You can assemble this dish in the morning, pop it in the fridge, then bake it when you get home that night.
  4. You can totally make homemade enchilada sauce, if you like.
  5. If you want to make this dish more on the indulgent side, try drizzling some queso sauce over top.
  6. You can also serve this with sour cream.
  7. You can tell if an avocado is ripe by giving it a gentle squeeze. It should feel soft but firm like clay. If it’s easily dented, it’s over-ripe. If it’s hard as a rock, it’s not ripe at all.
  8. For more stuffed shell fun, try my Eggplant Stuffed Shells with Blush Sauce.

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Mexican Stuffed Shells
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 hothouse tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 can diced mild green chiles
  • 10-oz. can enchilada sauce

For the shells

  • 15 jumbo pasta shells, cooked*
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 16-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 tbsp. reduced sodium taco seasoning
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. water
  • 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha (go for 2 if you like heat, 1 for just a touch of kick)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2.25-oz. can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh scallions

*Boil more shells than you actually need because some will break while cooking

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring 2 tsp. olive oil to medium heat. Add the tomatoes and let simmer until tender and cooked down, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and fold in can of enchilada sauce and green chiles. Set aside.
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  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Bring a large skillet to medium heat with 2 tsp olive oil. Add the beans, taco seasoning, water, and sriracha and stir well to combine. Let simmer until thickened, abut 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the bean mixture, cheddar cheese, and egg until evenly combined. You can add more tomatoes to the filling, if you like. Gently stuff about 2 tbsp. worth into whole shells and pack in a single layer into the prepared pan. Continue until you run out of shells/filling.
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  5. Pour the sauce mixture over the shells in the pan. Cover and bake for 50 minutes, or until bubbling and a knife inserted into the centermost shell comes out hot-to-the-touch.
  6. Sprinkle pepper jack cheese over top then turn oven up to 450 and return dish to oven until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle fresh scallions and olives on top. Serve with avocado.

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Colleen Bierstine

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