Monday, April 28, 2014

Mexican Stuffed Pasta Shells

I'm up and back at it this morning with my catch up attempt!  After this round, I will have about 4 more recipes to add,  then hopefully I won't bombard everyone with a million posts a day.  The next recipe I prepared is nothing fancy, but it's something I've been making for a long time.  I originally got the recipe from a Betty Crocker  cookbook I received as a gift from friends many years ago.  Sad as it may be, I have made these stuffed pasta shells so many times that I have the recipe memorized.  The meat mixture with the cream cheese, taco sauce, onion, etc. is so delicious that it could be used as a topping for salads or to dip chips in.  Now the original recipe adds corn chips and green onions, which I do not.  I really can't answer why that is.  I probably made it many moons ago and forgot those items so I mentally omitted them from the recipe, but I'm sure it would taste so good.  Another minor difference, is the taco sauce used.  The original version says to use Old El Paso, but I have used both the mild and medium versions of the Ortega taco sauce for years.  I don't know how different the sauces are, but I know I love mine!  A great feature about this recipe, is that it can be made ahead of time and it still tastes the same.  While it doesn't take too long to just make it right away, it is nice to have the option with everyones busy schedules.

Mexican Stuffed Pasta Shells

12 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (I usually add a couple more in case any tear apart)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (usually I do a little more, maybe 2 or 2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 ounce package of cream cheese
3/4 cup taco sauce, divided
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (this is an accompaniment to the dish and our house doesn't use this much since my husband uses Ranch instead)

  1. First things first, preheat your oven to 350°F and spray your pan. For this I use a 8x11 glass pan and it works perfectly.
  2. Cook your jumbo shells according to the package. When my water starts boiling I add a little olive oil just to be cautious so my shells don't stick together. I have done it without the oil and they turned out fine, but I would lose some because they got stuck and ripped. Torn shell=no filling staying inside it. My own personal tip, if you're not crunched for time, is to cook the shells and drain them in a colander before you start your meat mixture. This allows them to be a little cooler to the touch when your stuffing them. More often then not, I just deal with the heat, but it's great when you have help in the kitchen and want your sous chef(s) comfortable.
  3. Now time to start your meat mixture. If you haven't already chopped your onion, do so now and cook it with the ground beef on medium-high heat until done, about 5 minutes.
  4. Drain your meat. Usually for me, there isn't much to drain because I use lean ground beef.
  5. Turn your heat down to medium-low and add the chili powder, cream cheese, and 1/4 cup of the taco sauce. Stir until heated through and combined. I then taste the mixture to make sure nothing needs tweaked.
  6. Now to fill the shells. 2 Tablespoons is what the recipe says, but I just fill them up and still have plenty of the mixture leftover. As they are stuffed, place them in your already sprayed pan. As mentioned before, I use a rectangle pan which makes 4 nice rows of 3 perfectly.
  7. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of taco sauce, cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.
  8. After the 20 minutes is up, remove the foil, place the shredded cheese on top and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Now just serve with sour cream, or Ranch for some, and enjoy!

I know you all know what a chopped onion looks like, but I wanted to show my Jokari bag holder.  It is inexpensive and comes in handy when you're by yourself and don't want to get the outside of the storage bag messy.  The "arms" lengthen to support various sizes and it folds flat to fit in your drawer.

A pre-baked shot, showcasing my Ortega taco sauce.  I love this sauce and use it frequently on so many of my meals.  (Pictured below, lettuce wraps with sour cream, black beans, cheese, and you guessed it......TACO SAUCE!!!!)

The finished product!  Obviously this is my plate since it has sour cream on it.

Last but not least, my husbands beverage of choice for this dinner.  He wanted to start trying the local beers so he went for this IPA.  It was brewed in New York at Captain Lawrence Brewing Company.  From the look on his face and the empty 6 pack, he must have enjoyed it, but I didn't sit down with him and get his personal review.  Maybe next time :)  

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