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Two bites in, my husband said this was his favorite baked pasta dish. Did I tell him how many extra veggies he was eating? Not a chance. Ditto my children. While I can't change the fact that I am the only member in my household who yearns for vegetables, I am beyond thrilled that they loved this recipe. Yes, it's got handfuls of cheese on top... Hello, it's the best disguise.




Ingredients: 16 ounces jumbo pasta shells, 3 cups shredded, cooked rotisserie chicken,1 cup prepared pesto, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, big pinches of sea salt and pepper, 2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese, 1 tbsp. butter (optional), 3 1/2 cups Loaded Veggie Red sauce (may be substituted with a 28-ounce jar of chunky marinara sauce mixed with 1/4 cup water or red wine), and fresh chopped basil.

Loaded Veggie Red Sauce: 3 1/2 cups San Marzano whole tomatoes (about 28 ounces), 4 tbsp. tomato paste, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper, 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/2 cup chopped spinach, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/4 cup red wine.

Serves 4-6.

1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pot over medium heat until glossy. Add the onion, and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano, and basil. Bring to a simmer, cooking for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are soft. Mash to break up the tomatoes or blend using an immersion blender until your desired chunkiness is reached. Stir in the red wine, then taste for seasoning, see tips below. Set aside.

2. Make the filling/Cook the shells: While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the shells to just al dente--softened, but still firm. Drain. Make the chicken filling by stirring together the pesto, shredded chicken, ricotta, Parm, salt, pepper, and oregano until well combined.

3. Assemble and bake: Preheat the oven to 375* F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the dish. Stuff the shells with 2 tbsp. of the filling and place open side down in the dish. Pour over the rest of the sauce and top with Italian-blend shredded cheese. (Dot with butter, if you like). Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and broil for 1-2 minutes until golden and bubbling. Top with freshly chopped basil.

TIPS (for homemade tomato sauce)

If the sauce tastes too salty, stir in 1 tbsp. tomato paste and 1 extra tsp. sugar.

If the sauce is too garlicky, stir in 1/4 cup of whole milk or cream.

If the sauce is too acidic, stir in 1/2 tsp. baking soda, it will balance the PH.

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