Chicken, Pesto and Pasta – what’s not to love? Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells is going to be a great additions to your weeknight menu rotation. It feels like a fancy meal without being a ton of extra work. The stuffing of the shells does take a little bit of time, but not all that much. You could also get the family involved to make it go faster.
For the mozzarella cheese chunk that goes inside the shell with the chicken, you have a few options. In the recipe I list mozzarella cheese sticks (basically string cheese). You can also use Baby Bells. Or you could use the fresh mozzarella that comes in small balls. You just want to make sure the cheese chunk doesn’t take up more than a third of the shell – as it’s a pesto chicken dish, not just a cheese dish.
I like to bake these in two separate smaller baking dishes (8×8 or 9×9) instead of one bigger 13×9. This makes it easier for them to cook through evenly. Also it make leftovers easier (should there be any). Since it starts in a smaller dish, you might be able to just wrap it up and place in the fridge. When you use a bigger dish, the outer shells get crispy while the inner shells don’t heat all the way through. So it’s really up to you what vessel you want to use.
This recipe for creamy pesto sauce is going to be one that you want to hang on to, because you can use it in so many ways – pesto grilled cheese, pesto burgers, pesto lasagna, pesto on steak…the list keeps going and going. You might be wondering what gives with the kale – it’s really just to add more volume to the sauce without changing the flavor too much and you get the extra nutrients – so it’s win-win. I know pine nuts can be spendy and also sometime hard to find. If you aren’t able to locate them or just want to sub out for a more budget friendly option – go for shelled pistachios or cashews. Both have similar flavor and texture to pine nuts.
Now Let’s Get Cookin’!
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells
- 2 8×8 or 9×9 Baking dishes
- 3 lb Jumbo Shells
- 2 lb Chicken Thighs boneless, skinless
- 1 qt Chicken Broth
- 4 Garlic Cloves minced
- 6 Mozzarella Cheese Sticks cut into ½-in chunks
- 2 cups Mozzarella Cheese shredded
- ½ cup Oil
For the Creamy Pesto
- 2 cups Fresh Basil stems removed
- 1 cup Fresh Kale rough chopped
- 1 cup Pinenuts
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- ½ cup Oil
- 1 cup Parmesan Cheese grated
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Pepper
- Preheat Oven to 375degF. Start water boiling for pasta.
- In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, add chicken, garlic and broth. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove chicken to mixing bowl and shred.
- Once water is boiling, add jumbo shells and cook as directed on package. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water. Then toss in oil (this helps prevent sticking).
- Add pesto ingredients to food processer. Blitz until creamy.
- Add ¾ of pesto to shredded chicken and toss to coat.
- Place a chunk of cheese into a cooked shell and add a portion of pesto chicken. Line up in baking dish and repeat with remaining shells. Spoon remaining sauce over top of shells and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Estelle Forrest’s self-published first cookbook – Homemade on a Weeknight: A Family Cookbook – was created after a lot of playing around in the kitchen. You can purchase your own copy here:
Estelle self-published a second cookbook – Burgers on a Weeknight – recently. It has over 60 delicious burger creations! You can purchase your own copy here:
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