Chicken Marsala Stuffed Shells

Although yummy, today’s recipe proves that you can make stuffed shells without the ricotta. Who would have known?

Did you know there are people who do not like the taste and/or texture of ricotta cheese? Ricotta cheese is a staple ingredient to a lot of my family recipes, and Italian food in general. The “American” way is to alternatively use cottage cheese for lasagna and baked pastas. I, on the other hand, will eat spoonfuls of ricotta cheese plopped on top of my spaghetti! So began my quest for recipes that used alternative ingredients to ricotta and cottage cheese (I just can’t get past the lumpy texture of that stuff!).

This recipe originally called for bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce is a white sauce traditionally used in French and Italian cuisine, and has a heavy cream base. Some variations also call for cheese. Knowing the recipe was already going to be rich between the chicken, Marsala wine and melted Parmesan cheese, I opted to use a tomato cream sauce or vodka sauce instead. If you want to save time (the recipe will already take 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours between prep and baking), I recommend using a jar of Bertolli’s Vodka Sauce or Four Cheese Rosa. If you’re up for the task though of making homemade sauce, I highly recommend this tomato-marscapone sauce. So now, on to what you’ll need…

Chicken Marsala Stuffed Shells

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 lb. ground chicken
4 ounces prosciutto, diced
2/3 cup Marsala cooking wine
7 ounces chopped canned tomatoes, and their juices
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 box large pasta shells or 10-12 cannelloni tubes
Shredded Parmesan cheese
1 jar tomato cream or vodka sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, onion and mushrooms, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 8 to 10 minutes.

Dice your prosciutto into 1-inch pieces. Add the ground chicken and prosciutto to the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, for 12 minutes or until browned all over. Stir in the Marsala wine, tomatoes and their can juices, basil, and tomato paste, and cook for 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

When the filling is cooked, it will have absorbed mostly all of the liquid and will have a thickened consistency. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, return to a boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until tender, but still firm to bite. Drain and let dry. (You may want to add a few drops of olive oil to keep the shells or cannelloni from sticking)

Using a spoon, fill the shells or cannelloni tubes with the chicken and mushroom mixture. Place in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Pour the tomato cream or vodka sauce over them to cover completely and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. A side salad makes a delicious dinner!

Update: If you can’t find shells or cannolini tubes, or just don’t have time or want the fuss/mess of filling them), you can make this into a ziti pasta bake by mixing the chicken marsala mixture with a 16 ounce box of cooked ziti, pouring into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, and topping with sauce and grated cheese.