Yesterday, when I was trying to figure out what to have alongside my Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Pheasant, I ran through several options in my head. Mexican seasoned roasted potatoes? No, that didn't appeal to me. Orzo? No, since the pheasant was in bite-size pieces, the side needed to be something a little more substantial. Pasta? No.....well, maybe. What kind of pasta? I wasn't in the mood for any of the normal pastas. This was starting to get a bit irritating. We had to have SOMETHING with the pheasant! Pasta, pasta, pasta (picture me tapping my temple here). Wait a minute! We have jumbo pasta shells! I could come up with a Southwest -inspired filling. This would be a perfect side!
I don't make jumbo shells very often, but when I do, I'm reminded of how much I love them. First of all, if you go with a traditional filling of seasoned ricotta topped with spaghetti sauce, it's like lasagna, but way simpler. All the flavor but without all of the fuss and muss that goes into making lasagna. Second, they are so easy to fill that making them takes no time at all. And, last but certainly not least, you can take them in any direction you want. Go Italian with a 3 cheese filling with meat sauce. How about meatless with spinach and ricotta? Why not roast up some winter squash and mash it with cream cheese and herbs to stuff the shells? Or, choose something more TexMex, like I did. The point is, it's okay to stray from the beaten path with these. Just pick anything that sounds good to you, and you'll have a winner.
Here's you Cast of Characters.
12 Jumbo shells
1 Brick 1/3 less fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
1 - 7 Oz. can chopped green chiles
1 Can Rotel tomatoes (I like the Mexican Lime & Cilantro!)
1 Cup shredded cheese - colby jack or fiesta blend
1 1/2 Teaspoon Lawry's season salt
1 Teaspoon pepper
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro - optional
See that tube? That's 3 bunches of cilantro, chopped! I found these lovely little tubes in the produce section of Walmart. They had cilantro, basil, garlic and lemongrass! Awesome!! Plus, they last a lot longer than the fresh variety!
So, what's the verdict? As good as fresh chopped cilantro? Absolutely! It smelled and tasted just like fresh chopped cilantro without the hassle of doing it yourself. Love this concept!
Okay, down to business, now. Preheat oven to 375. Line a small rectangular pyrex or casserole with foil. Bring water to a boil, and cook shells for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, green chiles, chopped cilantro and the seasonings. Stir well to combine.
Add in shredded cheese, and mix well. It should be nice and thick.
Drain shells, and immediately start filling.
Place shells in prepared pan, making sure to keep cheese side up.
Pour Rotel tomatoes over the top, sprinkle with a little Lawry's and pepper.
Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until heated through. Broil on low for 2 minutes.
See all of that creamy, cheesy goodness! The Rotel tomatoes add a nice hint of heat, which is countered by the green chile cream cheese mixture.