I love stuffed shells. They were one of those recipes that was in frequent rotation in my house growing up and I still enjoy them today, even though I rarely make them. And on those occasions that I do make stuffed shells, I maximize the veggies and minimize the ricotta. Not only is this healthier, but it’s the only way my husband will eat them–that’s right, my husband hates ricotta cheese. How anyone can dislike the creamy goodness of ricotta, I will never understand.
This Baby Bella and Kale Casserole recipe is adapted from Everyday Food’s Chicken and Kale Casserole. The original recipe called for large shells, which was odd to me because they weren’t supposed to be stuffed. The first time I made this, I used the large shells and just tossing them in the casserole with the rest of the ingredients didn’t work out too well. When I tested the recipe again, I opted for the smaller pasta shells–success! The casserole was much easier to serve (and eat) that way. So think of this as deconstructed stuffed shells.
To make it somewhat appealing to my husband, I downsized the amount of ricotta. And because I’m trying to eat better, I substituted fat-free ricotta for part-skim–unlike with other cheeses, I really don’t think you can tell the difference with ricotta, especially in casseroles. Obviously, as vegetarians, the chicken was problematic too, so I used baby bella mushrooms instead. Finally, I changed the serving size from 8 to 4–you can always double the recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.
A pasta bake casserole with kale, baby bella mushrooms, and ricotta cheese.
- cooking spray or oil mister
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- 6 oz. small pasta shells
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small bunch kale, tough stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1-15 oz. container fat-free ricotta
- zest from 1 lemon, finely grated
- 6 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms; cook until onion and mushrooms are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add kale, cover and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with pasta.
- Stir in ricotta, lemon zest, and 3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes.