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Monday, October 4, 2010

Mexican Pasta Shells

Welcome to another Meatless Monday! Today's recipe comes from deep in the Shannon recipe archives. I did a couple year stint as a vegetarian and had bought a few cookbooks to supply me with meal ideas. Many of them were the supermarket checkout mini-magazines, so instead of stockpiling a bunch of those, I ripped out dishes I liked or wanted to try. This was always in the try pile.

I'm not really sure where the recipe comes from, however, after having cooked it, I would change a number of things about it. The first is the number of shells. The original recipe calls for 12 shells for six servings. Seemed fine to me...until I bought jumbo shells. They aren't quite as jumbo as I'd imagined. Cooked, they're probably 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. And if that's my dinner, please multiply by two. The recipe calls for one can of beans but I found that was quite skimpy. I'd definitely double it. I'd also add another vegetable to the mix, like a green pepper.

Mexican Pasta Shells

16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 cans (15-16 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 package soft cream cheese
3/4 cup taco sauce
1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup sour cream
4 medium green onions, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain pasta shells as directed on package

2. Heat oil in 2-quart nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and pepper in oil, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in beans, chili powder, cream cheese and 1/2 cup taco sauce. heat over medium-low heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.

3. Spray a glass pie dish with cooking spray. Fill cooked shells with bean mixture. Place shells, filled side up, in pan. Pour remaining 1/4 cup taco sauce over shells.

4. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and corn chips. Bake uncovered about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with sour cream and green onions. Serves 4.

The Verdict: The version we ate was good and had a lot of potential. That's why I suggest making those changes to it. We ate the pepper-less and skimpy bean version. This recipe would also make a great appetizer. (In which case two shells per person would be plenty.)

Amir wasn't into this recipe. But that's largely because he saw his daddy eating tortilla chips before dinner and wanted some. Four chips later, that's what he decided dinner should be. The Kinaymans don't roll like that; we don't subscribe to the "at least he's eating something" philosophy. He loves beans, though. So I'm thinking next time he might be more into it if I increase the beans so that you can really see them.

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