Pesto & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

As the weather starts turning cooler, we find that we start craving warm and hearty meals. One of our favorite family meals is stuffed shells. There are so many different ways to customize a stuffed shells recipe; you can incorporate the protein of your choice or add vegetables to get your greens in. For this version, we have chosen to incorporate ground beef, pesto and ricotta. We love the flavor combination of pesto and ricotta. The pesto brings in an herby freshness and the ricotta adds creaminess and unctuousness to the dish. This recipe can be prepared in advance and baked just as your family or friends come over for dinner. Serve this with our Kale Salad: Autumn Edition and you have balanced, full dinner.

Pesto and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Makes: 8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2, 28oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbs salt

Ingredients for the Shells:

  • 1 package jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup basil, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce. In a large pot, sauté the ground beef until it is cooked through. Set aside in a bowl but do not drain the fat. Add the garlic and parsley and saute in the beef fat for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water and salt and bring to a simmer. Add the beef back into the sauce and keep on simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the sauce is simmering, cook your shells according to package directions. When the shells are cooked to al dente, rinse them with cold water. You will want them to be cooled before stuff them.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Create the filling. Combine the ricotta, pesto, egg, basil and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Season with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in a large Ziploc bag and cut the tip off the corner of the bag. Use the bag to pipe the mixture into each shell.
  5. Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with a layer of the sauce. Add the stuffed shells on top of the sauce in an even layer. Fill the rest of the dish with the sauce and top with the mozzarella. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.

Summer Pesto Pasta Salad

We love serving pasta salad as a side dish for a cookout or barbecue. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from, but we tend to go with a veggie filled pesto version as we head into the heart of summer. Pasta salads can often time be filled with mayo which makes it a very bulky side dish. This version is made with quinoa pasta, pesto, and tons of veggies like zucchini and roasted tomatoes. It is filling, yet healthy, and goes with just about everything. We prefer to serve this pasta salad warm or room temperature; if you want to serve it chilled make sure you mix it well and season again with salt and pepper, as chilled foods tend to taste less seasoned than hot foods.

Summer Pasta Salad

Makes: 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fusilli pasta (we used a quinoa based)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 zucchini, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and diced
  • 2 yellow squash, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 1/3 cup grated or crumbled Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes to al dente. Reserve 3/4 – 1 cup of pasta water before straining the pasta into a sink.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Sauté for 2 minutes or until the garlic is starting to brown. Add the zucchini to the pan and saute for another 4-5 minutes, or until the zucchini also starts to brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the zucchini from the pan and add the tomatoes. Cook just a few minutes- you don’t want the tomatoes to turn into a sauce- you just want them to brown up.
  3. Put the pesto in a large serving bowl. Add the hot pasta and stir everything well, adding pasta water as necessary so that everything is nicely coated and not sticky. Add the zucchini and tomatoes to the pasta and gently mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Smashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese & Pesto

Our good friend Lea has been snapping pics of her homemade potatoes and we immediately reached out for the recipe. Normally recipes from her are hard to come by because of lot of her cooking has been taught in person, without recipe, from her amazing, Italian mama. Luckily for us, this time, she was willing to share. We made a few modifications and hope that these bad boys do her justice. Thank you Lea! 

These potatoes are cooked twice – boiled and baked. We love the bake at the end because it gives the outside of the potatoes a nice, crispy texture. The pesto and goat cheese makes the whole dish decadent and delicious. This is a great side dish to serve with just about any protein and perfect for Memorial Day Weekend. We chose to pair the potatoes with a steak during one of our fancy Steak Saturday dinners that we have been enjoying during quarantine. 

Smashed Potatoes with Pesto & Goat Cheese 
Makes: 4-6 side dishes 
Prep Time: 10 minutes  Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb baby potatoes 
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 6 oz goat cheese 
  • salt and pepper for seasoning 

Directions for the Oven: 

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the potatoes in cold water covered by 2 -3 inches of water. Set the heat on high and bring to boil. Boil for 20 minutes. 
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, mix the pesto and goat cheese together in a bowl. 
  4. Drain and rinse the potatoes. Using a glass or other type of round ramekin, place the potatoes on a sprayed baking sheet and use the glass to “smash” the potatoes flat. This doesn’t need to be perfect. Some potatoes may break all the way through and others will remain intact. 
  5. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and add a hearty dollop of the pesto/goat cheese mixture on top of each potato. Place the potatoes in the oven for another 30 minutes until the are crispy and the cheese mixture is fully melted. 
  6. Take the potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm!

Grilled Pizza: Spring Edition

Tate’s family loves grilled pizza. If you know us at all, you know that during the summer we are eating some form of grilled pizza every week. This recipe is very versatile, easy to prepare, and a huge crowd pleaser. We have incorporated spring ingredients as a topping to the pizza as we transition from colder weather (Colorado please stop snowing!).

We know that finding yeast in today’s supermarkets is nearly impossible, so we have made this recipe with a pre-made pizza dough. We have been able to find this at most super markets in the refrigerated section. Feel free to use this recipe as a base for whatever ingredients you can find and have on hand. Is anything bad with bread and cheese?

Grilled Pizza: Spring Edition

Makes: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pre-made pizza dough  
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 8 stalks asparagus, cut in half lengthwise 
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 3 tbs olive oil, separated 
  • 1/2 cup pesto 
  • 1 package burrata (two balls) 
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes 
  • 6 green onions, cut into thin segments
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions:

  1. Heat the grill to approximately 500 degrees. Make sure the grill is clean of any previous debris before cooking the dough.  
  2. Use the 1/4 cup flour to scatter across a clean cooking surface. Use a rolling in to roll the dough into an even pizza shape (rectangle or circle is fine). You want the dough to be about 1/2 inch thick. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin so that you can transfer it to the grill. 
  3. Carefully put the dough onto the grill. Cook the dough for about 6 minutes, or until the dough is starting to brown. Remove the dough from the grill cooked side up onto a cookie sheet. 
  4. While the first side of the pizza is cooking, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs olive oil, the sliced garlic, and the asparagus to the pan. Saute for 5-6 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked through and the garlic is crispy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. When the pizza is halfway cooked, top the pizza with the toppings. If you have a thick pesto you can add 1 tbs+ of olive oil to help it spread better onto the dough. Spread the pesto around the dough, leaving 1 inch of crust around the entire edge of the pizza. Drain the burrata of any brine and spread that on top of the pesto. Add the cooked asparagus, red chili flakes, and fresh green onions. 
  6. Put the pizza back onto the grill and cook, covered, for another 5-6 minutes. Cooking with the cover on will help melt the cheese, but keep any eye on it to make sure the grill isn’t getting too hot. 
  7. Remove the pizza from the grill and let it sit for a few minutes before slicing and serving. 

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Fun fact. Tate’s mom made this pesto using the Beaba baby food steamer and processor. In this season of life, making baby food regularly, it made the most sense to re-purpose kitchen tools that were already in use. Regardless of process, we were able to create a pasta dish that is easy to make and tasty for the whole family. One of the best parts of this recipe is that it can easily be made dairy free by not adding any Parmesan cheese while serving.  Healthy, simple, and delicious? We call that a weeknight win.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta
Makes: 4 servings 
Total Time: 25 minutes 

Ingredients for Pesto:

  • 1 head of broccoli (feel free to buy a package of broccoli florets instead)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Ingredients for Pasta:

  • 1 lb of your favorite pasta (we used cavatappi)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half 
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Steam the head of broccoli over a pot of water or in a steamer (or in the Beaba) for 15 minutes or until the broccoli is tender when poking with a fork or knife.
  2. Transfer the broccoli to a blender and add the remaining pesto ingredients (cilantro – red chili flakes). Blend until you get a smooth consistency. Depending on your definition of “bunch”, you may need to add more olive oil. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  3. Cook the pasta al dente per the package directions. Rinse the pasta with cold water and add back to the hot pot that you cooked it in. Add the pesto and toss so that the pesto thoroughly coats the pasta. 
  4. Place the pasta in a serving dish and add chopped tomatoes and Parmesan. Serve warm.