There are some people who always seem to nail every recipe. For me, The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) is one of those people. From her cooking show on The Food Network to her acclaimed food blog, every recipe I make seems to immediately make its way into my rotation of repeated recipes.
In this season of life, many weeknight dinners are often pre-prepared casseroles that I make on Sunday evenings. As I have scoured the internet for simple, yet yummy, recipes this way stood out amongst many. With a husband who will eat tree bark if it was covered in cheese, I knew this version of an Italian classic would be a keeper.
20 whole jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or a rotisserie chicken works great!)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for grillings
3/4 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese, plus more for the top
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the top
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream, plus more, as needed
3 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan or iron skillet over medium heat, drizzle with olive oil, and cook the chicken on both sides until it’s done. Remove and shred with two forks and allow to cool.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella, 1 cup of the Parmesan, eggs, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, salt, pepper, and chicken. Stir to combine, splashing in 2 tablespoons heavy cream if needed. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sprinkle over the flour. Whisk and cook until the roux turns golden brown. Pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly, and cook for a few minutes, until thickened. Add the garlic, the additional 1 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon minced parsley, and minced basil and stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.
- Add 1 cup sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Using a spoon, fill each of the jumbo shells generously with the chicken/ricotta mixture. Lay them face down in the pan, then pour the sauce all over the top. Sprinkle on extra mozzarella and Parmesan, then bake for 25 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.