Tex-Mex Stuffed Shells

February 7, 2010 · 14 comments

in beef,mexican/tex-mex,pasta

I sometimes wonder if I should rename this blog Elly Says ¡Olé!  with all the Mexican and Tex-Mex type cooking I do.  What can I say? I like spice and more importantly, cheese. :)

I wanted to use up some random ingredients that I had around that screamed Mexican to me, but I didn’t have any tortillas (or sour cream).  I considered just making my own tortillas (because I do love making them with masa) but then I remembered I had half a box of pasta shells leftover from the last time I used them, so I decided to go with a Tex-Mex type stuffing, rather than an Italian one.  I used spiced ground beef and made a tomato sauce that is somewhat enchilada-sauce like.   I season ground beef for tacos, etc. myself rather than use a packet, because I always have the spices around and those packets are often a sodium bomb.  But, if you want to make this recipe even easier and more quickly, you can just season your beef with a taco packet, and use a couple of cans of enchilada sauce in place of the tomato sauce I made. But I promise you that both are extremely easy to do and can cook simultaneously, so this recipe doesn’t take terribly long to prep.  In fact, rather than sautéing onions and garlic like I normally would for an enchilada sauce, I just used garlic and onion powder to save myself some time.

I actually only made half the recipe below, but that was a result of having random things to use up, like half a green pepper, half an onion, half a box of shells from last time, and half a pound of ground beef. I figure most people don’t have these quantities on hand, which is why I’ve made the recipe below a bit more manageable.

Excuse the pic – I find baked pasta dishes nearly impossible to photograph. :)

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shells

Serves 8
print Printer Friendly Recipe

1 box (12 oz.) large pasta shells
1 batch ground beef filling (recipe follows)
1 batch tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1.5 cups (6 oz.) shredded Mexican cheese mix (or cheddar, monterey jack, chihuahua etc.)

Tomato Sauce
1 large (29 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup broth or water
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 bay leaf

Ground Beef Filling
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, small dice
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water (or beef broth)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1.25 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 oz. cream cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.  Boil the pasta shells until al dente.

Meanwhile, make the ground beef filling and tomato sauce.   To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, along with salt and pepper to  taste (if you use broth, you won’t need much salt).  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the sauce slowly bubble and simmer, stirring occasionally, as you make your ground beef mixture.

To make the ground beef mixture: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the canola oil and once shimmery, add the onions and green pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes until the vegetables begin to get tender.  Add the beef and garlic.  Cook the ground beef until browned, and then, if necessary, drain the fat off the beef.  Add the water/beef broth, cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over low heat until most of the water/broth has been absorbed.  Re-season to taste if necessary.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly before stirring in the cream cheese.

To assemble: Pour about 2/3 cup of the tomato sauce over a large baking dish (or two).  Stuff each shell with a tablespoon or so of the ground beef mixture, and place on top of the sauce in the pan.  Continue until all the shells are stuffed.  Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, and then sprinkle with the cheese.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 until the cheese is bubbly and begins to brown.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Cate February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I’ve been on a Mexican kick lately too… I just can’t stop cooking Rick Bayless recipes! I definitely want to try vegetarian-izing this with black beans. Thanks for the inspiration!

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Ed Schenk February 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Great approach to an Italian classic. Very creative!

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Jade February 8, 2010 at 11:49 am

Great idea! This sounds so good and I can not wait to try it.

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Juliana February 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Wow, like the idea…Tex-Mex…nice picture!

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Katie @ The Well-Fed Newlyweds February 8, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Hi Elly. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now, and I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing and recipes. I made these shells tonight, and they were fantastic. Just the right amount of creaminess and spiciness. My husband could not stop raving about them as we ate – and he is not a foodie at all! We will certainly be making them again in the near future.

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elly February 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Hi Katie. I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed the stuffed shells!

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Peter February 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Elly Says Ole indeed…the pics got me Godsmacked….me hingry – mission accomplished.

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Marisa February 10, 2010 at 4:06 am

*drool* Definitely no reason to excuse that pic – it looks scrumptious!

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Colleen February 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Mmm, we love Mexican in our house! And your pic is still pretty :)

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Ivy February 11, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Your dish sounds delicious and mouthwatering.

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Kevin February 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

This sounds really tasty and it looks so good all covered in melted gooey cheese!

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Fawn April 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Hi Elly!

I looooove this recipe as well as everything else that you make! Delicious indeed!
P.s. In reference to your comment about photographing baked pasta dishes, I find pasta to be most “photogenic” when plated(simple white plates or very shallow bowls). With the flat plate, drizzled with some sauce or with the shallow bowl, just a sprig of herb looks fancy!

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