ENCHILADA STUFFED PASTA BAKE

Ideal for cooler nights and Mexi-food lovers, this cheesy skillet of love is one of my favorite family meals. It's simple enough for stress-y weeknights but still feels special. I bake this dish in a cast-iron skillet (a baking dish is just fine, too)--and always use my favorite store-bought enchilada sauce. Part of that is cutting down on prep-time, part is that I believe enchilada sauce is hard to nail, consistency-wise. Though if you already make your own sauce, use it.


I feel baked dishes such as this really shine when you use the flavors and bits you already know and love. As for finishing, I go the green route with firm chunks of avocado and cilantro and scallions. Some of you may prefer a dollop of sour cream and fresh tomato, and I don't think minced onion and black olives are wrong either. All of it works, it's your choice.


This dish is also good with manicotti pasta!

Notes: Ground beef is 90% lean, organic, grass-finished.


ENCHILADA STUFFED PASTA BAKE

Ingredients: 1 tbsp. butter, 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells, 1 lb. ground beef, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 small chopped onion, 1 small can green chilis, 15 ounces enchilada sauce, 2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese, 1 cup grated pepper jack cheese.

Serves 4.


1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Butter the inside of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Set aside.

2. In another skillet, cook ground beef with salt and pepper until just done, drain and remove to a bowl. Mostly wipe out the skillet and add in onion, garlic, green chili and cumin. Cook until onion is soft and browned.

3. Add beef back into the skillet along with 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce. Stir to combine. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells until pliable, but still firm, about 7 minutes. Drain well, cover with cold water for 3 minutes, drain again.

5. Stuff each shell with 1 tbsp. of the beef mixture, place into cast-iron skillet (you might end up with a few left-over shells for another use). Pour enchilada sauce over the shells, top with remaining cheddar and pepper jack cheeses.

6. Tent skillet with foil, making sure the foil is not touching the cheese. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-7 minutes longer until cheese is golden and melty. Serve with toppings.


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