Enchilada Stuffed Shells

There is something incredibly comforting about pasta – amiright? It comes in various shapes, flavor combos, and toppings – it’s so versatile, and that’s part of its charm.

I’ve been making this recipe for decades and, for the first time, I tried to measure out the ingredients so I could share it here. I confess that it feels like it’s going against everything that seems natural. I’m focused on the greater good of pasta lovers everywhere, though, so I’m just gonna suck it up. 😉

2-2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 an onion, diced
Salt and pepper
12 oz box of jumbo pasta shells
16 oz can refried beans
28 oz can red enchilada sauce (you won’t use all of it, maybe)
2 cups shredded cheese (you can use cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, whatever you like!)
1 t seasoned pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
Tad more salt and pepper (that’s my official measuring tool)
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to your liking, don’t let me boss you around in your own kitchen)

Cook noodles according to package, about 15 minutes. While noodles are cooking, in a large skillet, brown ground beef with some salt and pepper. After it begins to brown throughout, add the onion. Cook until done. Spoon off the excess grease—return pan to burner.

When noodles are done, drain (reserving 1 c of pasta water) and rinse under cold water.

Add refried beans to ground beef and mix until combined. Add seasonings. Mix in the pasta water, start with 1/2 cup, and add more as needed. The consistency should be a bit wetter than taco meat – unless you like really wet taco meat… then, I don’t know how to help you – but not runny. Mix until it’s heated through; taste to see if you need a bit more salt or garlic or pepper. If you do, add it! The best thing about cooking is making it taste exactly how we like it to taste. 😉

Let the ground beef mixture cool some – unless you’re like me and have already burned your fingertips enough to not care about burning them some more.

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray for easier cleanup, and pour enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom.

Now you’re going to set up a bit of an assembly system. I put the pasta on the left, the 9×13 pan in the middle, and the ground beef on my right. It makes sense for me, but adjust it however you like. Pick up a shell, open it with thumb and forefinger, and then use a spoon (I use the one just above the cereal spoon, but not quite the serving spoon sized one) to fill it with the meat and bean mixture. Don’t overstuff it, but don’t be shy either. I initially put them in rows in the pan and then just squeeze them in to use up every bit of space. Once you have a single layer, you can either grab another pan or be super classy like me and add a double-decker layer in the same pan. I’m okay with that decision.

Once they’re all stuffed, pour enchilada sauce over all of them. You’ll mostly want to make sure all the pasta has some sauce on it, so it doesn’t dry out in the baking process. You will likely not use all the sauce, but the large can allows you to be more generous with it. Someday, I’ll share the recipe for homemade enchilada sauce, but we’re just gonna do this version for now because it’s easy. Mkay…

Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melty and lovely. You’re welcome to garnish with fresh cilantro, crema, diced tomatoes. I didn’t do any of that because I just didn’t. I have no excuses. Enjoy!

Probably too close of a closeup! :p

Sheet Pan Potatoes (and other stuff)

I spent about a year as a vegan when I was going through some eliminating diet things back in the day. It was fine… in the end, my body was okay with animal proteins, so I added them back. Every now and then, though, I still like to make meatless meals that are hearty and filling. This one had cheese, so it’s technically vegetarian, but you catch my drift.

For the record, this is the first recipe I’m sharing here, and I made it a couple weeks ago before I knew the food blog was gonna be a thing. My measurements while making this were non-existent. I’m going to do my best to approximate what they should be, but shoo… do yo’ thang and I’m sure it’ll be delicious.

A couple things to note: the amount of potatoes really depends on the size of the potatoes and how much you want of each kind. I think sweet potatoes add a lovely depth of flavor, but you’re welcome to skip them if you’d prefer to only use russets. Also, in the recipe, I note that You shouldn’t be shy with the salt, and I mean it. Undersalted food is a tragedy. For this dish, I used kosher salt – it has larger grains and adds good flavor.

2-3 large baking russet potatoes, ~ 1 inch chunks
2-3 large sweet potatoes, ~1 inch chunks
1 small sweet onion, large dice
cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large zucchini, quartered and chunked
15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
10 oz frozen corn, thawed
2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1 T. garlic and herb seasoning (I get mine at Aldi!)
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Toss the potatoes with a good round of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in an even layer on the sheet pan. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes. While that’s cooking, chop the rest of your veggies.

After 25 minutes, remove the sheet pan, add the remaining veggies and the black beans. Give another drizzle of olive oil over the pan and mix. Add some more salt and pepper and the rest of the seasonings. This is where I’ll have to trust you to make the right choices since I didn’t measure! Don’t be shy with that salt, either. Mix well.

You’re doing great.

Place sheet pan back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, stir, check for doneness with your potatoes. If they need a bit more time, put them back in for 4 minute intervals, until done. Roasting potatoes is very finicky and dependent on how your oven cooks or if you have other things in there with it. Once the potatoes are done (fork tender), cover with shredded cheese and add back into the oven until it’s melty. And beautiful. And lovely. Enjoy!