Mexican Stuffed Shells

mexshells20I love Italian food!  And, I love Mexican food!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to combine those two different cuisines into something that represents the best of both worlds?  Italian-style stuffed pasta shells are a well-known dish in the world of pasta lovers,  but how about stuffed shells with a Mexican theme instead?  How do we do this? — it’s pretty simple — we still use jumbo pasta shells as our foundational element, but change out the ingredients from Mediterranean to Mexican.  Instead of marinara sauce, we use salsa, in place of typical Italian ingredients we use black beans, corn, and green chilies, and instead of ricotta or parmesan, we use Cotija or Mexican 4-blend cheese.  Arriba!  We’ve transported ourselves from the tables of Tuscany to the tabla of Mexico! With green & black olives, sour cream, tabasco sauce, and green onions for garnish, this dish is a crowd-pleaser and a visual delight as well.  Easy to prepare, great for large groups, and leftovers can easily be frozen for another time.  And, remember…a taco by any other name…might just be a stuffed shell!

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Makes 8 Servings (3 shells each)
Prep: 20 min.
Bake: 30 min.

Ingredients

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24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 lb ground beef (I prefer ground chuck)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 tsp dried minced garlic (or 5 garlic cloves, finely minced)
2 TBSP dried minced onion
1 16-oz jar of Green Mountain Gringo Salsa (hot, medium, or mild; or any salsa of your choice)
1 -7 3/4 oz can El Pato tomato sauce (Mexican Hot Style)
1 – 4.5 oz can chopped green chilies
2 – 4.5 oz cans sliced black olives (reserve one for garnish)
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend or Monterrey Jack/Cheddar/Cotija, or any combination you prefer

Suggested Toppings

Sour cream
Salsa
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
1/4 cup sliced green onions (or chives)
McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350F°

2.  Prepare pasta shells according to package directions; (I like to cook them about 8-10 minutes once the water starts to boil) Rinse in cool water and set aside to drain.

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3.  Brown the ground beef, along with salt, pepper, garlic, minced onion, and green chiles in a skillet over medium heat until no longer pink.

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4.  Add the salsa, tomato sauce, corn, green chilies, black olives and beans.

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Mix together well and spoon into pasta shells.

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5.  Place the shells  in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish which has been coated with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with cheese.

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Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until heated through.

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*If you prefer the cheese to be more melted and the overall dish more browned, remove the aluminum foil and broil for five minutes.  Be careful, as the shells will dry out quickly if you broil them too long.

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Garnish with topping(s) of your choice; sour cream, salsa, olives, onions/chives or diced tomatoes.

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Buen apetito!

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Will

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