I find myself pretty lucky that both Cole and I agree about the ingredients to make up the best pasta dishes. We both choose Alfredo sauce over marinara, chicken over beef, and broccoli over any other veggie. The only hitch is the mushrooms. I would love to add mushrooms into all pasta dishes, but Cole says that’s a giant NO. It’s all good. Not everyone can love mushrooms. It’s one of those love/hate food ingredients. There really is no inbetween when it comes to mushrooms. Anyway, knowing all of our favorite ingredients, it’s relatively easy for me to come up with pasta casserole recipes that meet all of our preferences.
My personal favorite noodle to use when making a baked pasta dish is jumbo shells. They seem to keep their shape better than other noodles when boiling, making it easier to stuff them. My Cheesy Chicken Alfredo Shells check all the boxes when it comes to making a baked pasta casserole. They have protein, a veggie, and PLENTY of cheese. This dish also serves about five people, making it a great option to feed the whole family.
5 oz Shredded Cooked Chicken
9 oz Broccoli Florets
2 tsp Garlic
15 oz Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
25-30 Jumbo Pasta Shells
15 oz Alfredo Sauce (I use Bertolli Creamy Basil Alfredo)
1 – 1 ½ cups Shredded Italian Cheese Blend
1. Shred 5 oz of cooked chicken breast into very tiny pieces. The tinier the pieces, the easier the shells will be to stuff once everything is mixed together.
Kitchen Tip: Have I ever mentioned how much I love my kitchen scale? I use it ALL THE TIME. If you don’t have one of these in your kitchen yet, I highly recommend ordering one. So many recipes call for meat measurements in ounces, and this guarantees that you have the right amount.
2. Cut the florets of the broccoli off the stems, making sure to get rid of as much of the thick stems as possible. Steam the florets for 5 minutes or until very tender.
3. Stir the steamed florets vigorously with a fork until they shred apart and create very tiny broccoli pieces. Just like the chicken, the smaller the pieces are, the easier the shells will be to stuff. Set off to the side to cool.
4. Fill a large pot half full of water and add in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to a steady boil, and dump 25-30 noodles into the pot. Boil for 10 minutes. The shells will still be slightly firm after 10 minutes, but they will soften up while baking. Strain the noodles and set off to the side to cool.
Kitchen Tip: I usually get extra cautious with the noodles and cook up 30 of them instead of 25, that way, if one of them rips I have other options for back ups. I typically only have enough filling for 22 noodles, so that gives me 8 extra noodles.
5. Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, and garlic together in a mid-sized bowl; then stir in the chicken and broccoli once they have cooled.
6. Grease a 13×9 inch baking dish, then stuff each noodle until it is full but not overflowing. Spread the noodles out on the bottom of the pan. It is fine if they touch each other.
7. Pour the Alfredo sauce evenly over the top of the stuffed shells, then spread the shredded Italian cheese blend over the top of the sauce.
8. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
While stuffing shells is a little bit of work, this dish is so worth it. It is creamy, cheesy, and rich. For the perfect meal, serve it up with a side of French Bread or Italian Herb and Cheese Buns. Enjoy!