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.