Mexican Stuffed Shells

On my last trip to Stringtown, I stocked up on bulk flours, pasta and spices. One of the things I bought was large pasta shells that are great for stuffing with your favorite fillings. I usually tend to go Italian when I make pasta, but this time I decided to shake things up a bit and go with a Mexican-flavored dish. I found this recipe on The Way to His Heart, and this recipe is a keeper.

It’s super easy to do, and you can prepare everything ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake it for dinner. My sons will eat anything that has pasta or anything Mexican inspired, so this dish was a win-win at dinnertime.

mexican stuffed shells 2


mexican stuffed shells plated 2



Mexican Stuffed Shells

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 package low-sodium taco seasoning (I use Wildtree’s taco seasoning as it has no preservatives)

4 ounces cream cheese

18 jumbo-sized pasta shells

1 1/2 cups salsa

1 cup taco sauce

2 cups Mexican-flavored shredded cheese (usually a combination of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses)

Toppings: green onions, olives, sour cream, shredded lettuce (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain any fat. Add the taco seasoning according to package directions. Add the cream cheese to the skillet, and cook until the cheese is completely melted and blended well into the meat. Add half of the jar of salsa to the meat and cheese mixture, stirring to completely combine. Set aside and let cool completely.

While the beef is browning, cook pasta shells according to package instructions. Drain. When cool enough to handle, you’re ready to assemble the dish.

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the other half of the salsa in the bottom of the baking dish. Fill pasta shells with the cooled meat mixture, and place in the baking dish open side up. Cover the shells with the taco sauce. Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake shells covered for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, uncover the baking dish, and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the tops of the shells. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes without the foil, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve with toppings of your choice (black olives, green onions, sour cream, lettuce and additional salsa or taco sauce).

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Meatball and Gnocchi Casserole

I wanted to make a quick yet tasty casserole for when the boys got home after work, and after looking through my cupboards and freezer, I decided to make a meatball and gnocchi bake. I’d stocked up on shelf-stable gnocchi when I’d gone to the city because our small-town grocery store doesn’t carry it, and I can only eat the chicken and gnocchi soup so many times in a month, so I wanted to use them in a different way. This recipe was the ticket.

I used frozen Italian-style meatballs in this recipe, and I know it would be absolutely fabulous with homemade meatballs too. I just didn’t have the time to make homemade meatballs tonight, not that they take all that long to make, but I basically needed a dump-and-go casserole for a quick dinner. Since the meatballs I used were fully cooked, I simply browned them in the skillet, but if you’re making homemade meatballs, make sure you cook them in the skillet until they’re fully cooked through to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (about 6 minutes or so). You can saute the vegetables at the same time the gnocchi is boiling, and that really is the longest part of this recipe. From the time the gnocchi drops in the boiling water to the time you’re putting the casserole in the oven, prep time is about 10 to 15 minutes. Baking time is 30 minutes, and then you’ve got a delicious meal on the table in less than an hour. Win-win in our house 🙂


meatball gnocchi casserole 2


meatball gnocchi casserole plated

Meatball and Gnocchi Casserole

1 16-ounce package of gnocchi

1 1/2 cup pasta sauce

1 package (26 count) Italian-style fully cooked meatballs (or use your favorite homemade meatball recipe)

Extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 medium green pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (1 small onion)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the pasta sauce, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons of the extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat, about 2 to 3 swirls of the bottle around the skillet. Add the mushrooms, green pepper and sliced onions. Saute for about 7 minutes, or until soft. Add the vegetables to the gnocchi in the bowl.

In the same skillet, add another 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Lightly brown the meatballs on all sides. Drain and add meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour the meatball and gnocchi mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the casserole, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.


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Baked Mexican Goulash

Are you the kind of cook that looks through your pantry and wonders what could I make with these ingredients? If you are, you’ll appreciate this recipe for Mexican Goulash. I’d been working hard writing and editing, but I still had to put something on the table for dinner. I knew I had ground meat. I knew I had dried pasta. My pantry is full of seasonings and canned goodies. But I had no ideas running through my head.

When I get like this, I usually do one of two things: Italian or Mexican. Since I had more Mexican-themed ingredients on hand, including home-canned chili beans, that’s the way I went. The ingredients can obviously be changed to include things you have on hand in your pantry, and amounts are approximate. This is a throw-it-together-quick casserole that comes together quick for those busy nights, and you can top each serving with shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole or taco sauce if you prefer.


mexican goulash


Baked Mexican Goulash

1 box dried macaroni or rotini pasta

1 pound ground beef

1 envelope taco seasoning

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 pint chili beans

1/2 cup salsa

1 small can sliced black olives

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and taco sauce (optional)


Cook dried pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, brown the ground beef until no longer pink; drain. Return the browned beef to the skillet, and add the package of taco seasoning according to the package instructions. Cook for a few minutes to incorporate the seasoning into the meat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, ground beef mixture, tomatoes, chili beans and salsa. Stir to thoroughly combine. Pour pasta mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Evenly spread the sliced olives over the top of the pasta. Top the casserole with the shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely brown on top and the casserole is bubbly. Top each serving with shredded lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and taco sauce if desired.

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Italian Sausage Roll-ups

My family loves Italian-style meals, and lasagna is probably one of their favorite choices when I ask them what they’d like for dinner. I don’t mind making a huge lasagna, but I wanted to do something a little different for dinner tonight, so I decided to make Italian Sausage Roll-ups. I’ve made these in a variety of ways in the past, using ground beef, adding spinach and mixing up the different cheeses, but tonight I decided to make them with Italian sausage.

These are really easy to make, although they can be a little bit messy, but in the end, this is a fun dish you can make for your family and when friends come over for dinner. This is also a good recipe to get little hands in the kitchen to teach them how to cook.


Italian Sausage Roll-ups

1 pound Italian pork sausage

1 package lasagna noodles

1 carton ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 jar of your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Fresh Parmesan cheese for grating


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook lasagna noodles according to package direction. Set aside.

In a skillet, brown the Italian sausage until no longer pink and nicely browned. Drain.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add the browned and drained Italian sausage. Mix well.

sausage filling


To assemble, take 1 cooked lasagna noodle, and place 1 tablespoon of the meat and cheese filling on one end. Roll up the lasagna noodle like you would a jelly roll.

lasagna noodle and filling


Place in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan, seam side down. Continue with the remaining noodles until you’ve filled the pan.

lasagna rolls in pan

Pour the jar of spaghetti or marinara sauce evenly over the tops of the lasagna rolls.


lasagna rolls with sauce

Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over the tops of the rolls, and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over everything.

lasagna rolls with sauce and cheese 2


Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is nicely browned and the dish is bubbly.


lasagna rolls baked


Yield: 18 lasagna rolls


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Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Stuffed Shells

I’m always looking for new ways to use leftover ham. My go-to recipes are ham and beans, which my husband and sons love, and the usual scalloped potato and ham casserole. Tonight I decided to try something a little different. My family loves Italian-style stuffed pasta shells, so I decided to mix it up a little bit and use my leftover ham and broccoli. I think it was a success judging from the few shells left at the end of the meal. This is easy to make, and you can vary the types of cheese and even the veggies you want to use.

ham, cheese, broccoli shells plated

1 package jumbo pasta shells

2 cups leftover cooked ham, finely diced

1 package frozen broccoli, finely chopped

1 package ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 cups shredded Italian cheeses (I buy the prepackaged mix of Italian cheeses)

1 jar Alfredo sauce (or use homemade)

Fresh Parmesan cheese for grating

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large stockpot, cook the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, combine all the other ingredients (except for the Parmesan) in a large bowl, and mix until completely combined.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray 2 9 x 13-inch baking dishes with cooking spray. Stuff each cooked pasta shell with the ham and broccoli mixture, and place the shells in the baking dishes.

ham, cheese, broccoli shells - no sauce


Pour the Alfredo sauce over each shell. You don’t have to completely cover them, but make sure each shell has some sauce. Grate the Parmesan cheese evenly over all the shells.


ham, cheese, broccoli shells with sauce 2

Bake the shells for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cheese on top is nicely browned.

ham, cheese, broccoli shells baked 2


Yield:  About 6 servings (makes about 36 stuffed shells)

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Cody’s Skillet Pasta

While I was busy working today, my oldest son decided he’d make dinner for everyone. He’s a good cook who has learned to look through the cupboards and freezer, see what’s available, and come up with something tasty to eat. Tonight he made a skillet pasta, and it was really good. Thanks Cody!

codys skillet pasta

codys skillet pasta on plate

Cody’s Skillet Pasta

1 pound ground venison or ground beef (he used venison)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 package egg noodles
8 ounces canned mushrooms (he used canned Hen of the Woods mushrooms)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Splash balsamic vinegar
Splash liquid hickory smoke
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Parsley flakes for sprinkling on top

Cook egg noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown ground meat until no longer pink; drain. To the ground meat, add the spaghetti sauce, cooked noodles, mushrooms, seasonings, balsamic vinegar, liquid smoke, and stir to completely combine. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top, and let cook until the cheese melts. Sprinkle parsley flakes on top just before serving.

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Cheeseburger Mac Stew

All over the Internet I keep reading recipes for cheeseburger soup. My sister even makes a version of it, although I haven’t had the privilege (yet) of tasting it. So, when I was trying to think of something different for dinner last night, I thought I’d try my hand at making this soup. A lot of the recipes I read online included hash browns, and since I didn’t have any frozen hash browns on hand and didn’t feel like making them from scratch (I was feeling lazy), I omitted them, but feel free to include some if you try this.

I will confess that I keep the dreaded “blue box” macaroni and cheese in my kitchen cupboards. While I make mac and cheese from scratch (and my husband and I don’t particularly care for the store-bought stuff), my sons like to have the “blue box” on hand to make themselves a quick snack. I thought this recipe would be a good way to get rid of one of those boxes from my cupboards, and the cheese mix from the box did help thicken up the soup – hence I named the recipe cheeseburger mac stew.

cheeseburger mac stew

Cheeseburger Mac Stew

3 cups chicken broth
2 large carrots, scraped and shredded
2 cups milk
1/2 box Velveeta cheese
1 pound hamburger, cooked and drained
1 box macaroni and cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, brown hamburger until no longer pink. Drain and set aside.

In a large stockpot, combine chicken broth and shredded carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the carrots become tender. Add the milk, Velveeta and cheese mix package from the macaroni and cheese box. Stir until well combined and the cheese mix is dissolved. Add the cooked hamburger and the macaroni from the package. Cook until the macaroni is tender, about 8 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.

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Spinach Lasagna

My family would eat pasta just about every night of the week if that’s what I made. Well, maybe not Kevin so much, as he’s a traditional meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but my sons would. They frequently ask for lasagna, and when they were little, I used to add fresh spinach to my lasagna to “sneak” in a few more vegetables into their diet – not that they didn’t ever eat their veggies, but it was just one more way to get some greens in them. Now my oldest son requests that I include spinach when I make a lasagna, so I guess my sneaky ingredient somehow became his favorite way to eat lasagna.

To me the best lasagna has a ton of cheese in it, so I use lots of different blends in my recipe. For the ground meat, I’ve used ground venison, ground beef, Italian sausage and a combination of all. My oldest son likes it best when I use a combination of ground beef and ground Italian sausage, so this recipe reflects that.

lasagna in pan



Spinach Lasagna

1 package lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions, cooled
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
16 ounces diced mushrooms (store-bought canned, fresh or home canned)
2 jars spaghetti sauce (store bought or home canned)
1 8-ounce can tomato paste (I used Italian-seasoned tomato paste)
8 ounces ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 ounces sliced Provolone cheese
Freshly grated Asiago cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook lasagna noodles per package directions. Set aside.

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and Italian sausage with the diced onions until the meat is no longer pink. Drain grease. In the same skillet, to the browned meat add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, the tomato paste and the mushrooms. Cook until the mixture thickens.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta or cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, parsley, Italian seasoning and salt. Stir until well combined.

Combine the 2 cups of Italian shredded cheese and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese in another bowl.

In a large lasagna pan, layer the bottom with cooked lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the meat mixture on top of the noodles. Add a layer of the sliced Provolone cheese. Add a layer of the ricotta/egg mixture over the sliced Provolone. Add a layer of spinach leaves. Add a layer of the combined shredded cheeses.

Repeat layers, starting with another layer of noodles, and continue until you’ve used all the noodles, meat mixture, ricotta cheese mixture, spinach and combined shredded cheeses.

After you’ve completed all the layers, pour the remaining 1 jar of spaghetti sauce over all the layers. Top the sauce with the remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and additional freshly grated Asiago and Parmesan cheeses, if desired.

Bake the lasagna in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 60 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the lasagna is bubbly.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses.

Italian Chicken, Spinach and Pasta Bake

Normally I cook using ingredients I have on hand, whether it’s something I have growing in the garden or that I’ve canned/frozen during harvest. I do collect recipes, but I mainly get ideas from them (rather than follow them exactly), and I usually put my own twist on the recipes I see.

For tonight’s dinner, I had chicken breasts and bow tie pasta on hand, so I went searching for something different to make. I decided to do an Italian-style casserole because I love casseroles, and a casserole plus a salad and freshly baked bread usually feeds my hungry family – and when you have two young men (21 and 17) plus a husband with healthy appetites, you quickly learn to make large portions. While I used bow tie pasta, any small-shaped pasta works well with this recipe.



Italian Chicken, Spinach and Pasta Bake

1 box (12 ounces) bow tie-shaped pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 chicken breasts, diced into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
Half a small onion, about 1/4 cup, diced
Garlic-infused olive oil
Salt and black pepper
10 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped (or use canned mushrooms)
1 jar good quality spaghetti or marinara sauce (or use homemade)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions; set aside.

Season the chicken pieces with the Italian seasoning, combining to coat the pieces well. In a large skillet, drizzle a few tablespoons of the garlic-infused olive oil, and cook the chicken pieces and diced onion over medium-high heat until the chicken is nicely browned and the onions are translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain any excess oil, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, thawed chopped spinach, mushrooms, cooked pasta and cream cheese. Stir to combine. Add the spaghetti sauce, and stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated.

Pour the chicken and pasta mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top the casserole with the 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned and the casserole is bubbling. To serve, grate fresh Parmesan over the top of each serving.

Italian Chicken and Tortellini Soup

I love making different kinds of soups during the fall, and I spied a few recipes on Pinterest using cheese tortellini. I decided to combine a couple different recipes to make a soup with the ingredients I had on hand, and it turned out great.



Italian Chicken and Tortellini Soup

2 chicken breasts, diced into bite-sized pieces
Garlic-infused olive oil
4 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided (more or less to your family’s taste)
4 cups chicken stock
1 quart diced tomatoes, drained (I used home canned tomatoes, but you can use store-bought Italian-style tomatoes and adjust the Italian seasoning.)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 package fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 16-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini
Salt and black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot, drizzle a generous amount of the garlic-infused olive oil. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the Italian seasoning over the diced chicken, and combine until the chicken is coated with the seasoning. Brown the diced chicken in the oil until browned.

Add the chicken stock to the saucepot. Add the drained tomatoes to the stockpot along with 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (if using home canned – may omit if using Italian-style tomatoes). Add the chopped spinach, cream cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally until the cream cheese is completely melted and the ingredients are well combined.

Add the frozen tortellini to the stockpot, and cook until the pasta is heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls, and top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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