A new restaurant opened up in town last year called MexItalian – serving Latin-Mediterranean fusion cuisine. One of my favorite entrées there is a Parmigiana Mexicana, breaded eggplant that’s lightly fried, and layered with Parmesan cheese and salsa picante and then roasted. As I was perusing the many enticing recipes on Jenna’s Cooking Journey, my blog assignment for this “Blogger’s Choice” recipe swap, I came across a recipe for Mexican Stuffed Shells, and immediately thought of that Mexican-style Eggplant Parmigiana. I love fusion recipes, but for some reason tend to gravitate more towards Asian fusion ones (no surprise, I guess, considering the name and story behind this food blog). Well, this recipe broadened my horizons a bit. And when rain graced the central coast’s presence last week, I was looking for a nice comforting recipe that would require turning on the oven. This one fit the bill.
Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with ground turkey (or you could use ground beef) that’s seasoned with taco seasoning and made creamy with a little cream cheese. Then you lay the stuffed shells in a baking dish on top of a layer of salsa and cover them liberally with taco sauce. After a good half hour in the oven, you cover them with grated jack cheese and return them to the oven until golden and bubbly. A scattering of green onions and a couple dollops of sour cream finish off this Mexican-Italian fusion dish.
This is one of those recipes that we’d love to try again with some different ingredients just to change it up a bit. While we liked the combination of fresh salsa (we used a locally-made one that we love) and taco sauce from a bottle, I think it would be even more delicious with a home-made enchilada sauce, something with a nice smoky/spicy depth of flavor – one that can only come from your own kitchen, opposed to something from a bottle.
But overall, this is a crowd-pleasing dish, a great twist on your usual stuffed shells, and makes excellent leftovers.Thanks, Jenna!
Click on the icon at the bottom of this post to view all of the blogs that participated in this recipe swap! It’s sure to be a great round-up of recipes.
Mexican Stuffed Shells
(Slightly adapted from Jenna’s Cooking Journey, as seen on The Way to His Heart, from which I then traced back through 5 more blogs until I got to blogchef.net. This recipe has sure gotten around the food blog world, which is a good sign!)
1 lb. ground turkey
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning (or use your own, which I should have done, but was feeling lazy )
4 oz. cream cheese (I used more like 2-3 oz.)
1/2 a box of jumbo pasta shells (recipe specified 14-16 but I didn’t count – was probably over 20 shells)
1 1/2 to 2 cups salsa (I used a fresh salsa that’s made locally – Roberto’s)
1 cup taco sauce (such as La Victoria brand – I didn’t measure, but used almost an entire 8 oz. bottle)
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
3 green onions, sliced
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a frying pan, brown the turkey, using a wooden spoon to break up the pieces as it cooks. Drain, if needed (our turkey was pretty lean). Add taco seasoning and prepare according to the package directions. In our case, add the seasoning packet, 2/3 cup water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well. Turn off heat, set aside, and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta shells according to directions, 8-9 minutes in our case; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board/baking sheet so that they don’t stick together. Allow to cool before handling.
- Pour salsa into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Using a spoon, gently fill each shell with the meat mixture and place it in the dish on top of the salsa, open-side up. Cover shells with taco sauce (we drizzled a little over each one – we also spooned a little more salsa on top of each shell). Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes more, uncovered. Top with green onions and serve with sour cream on the side.