I was recently in New Orleans again this week, and every time I come back home I become “homesick” for the food over there. It’s probably without a doubt some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. That’s quite a statement to make, but it’s so true. The people are amazing and the food is even better. If you’ve ever traveled there, I’m sure you can attest to this, and if you’ve never been, then I suggest you move it to the top of your “must visit” list because you’re missing out on a great cultural experience. My friend Joy lives there, and I’m fortunate to go out often to work with her. She has a handy New Orleans Section on her site with all of her recommendations of places you have to visit and eat and drink at. This kind of guide comes in hand when traveling somewhere new, and especially from a local who has experienced everything first hand. If you can’t travel right now, well have no fear because I have your back. Bring New Orleans to yourself! You deserve it. Try making these Red Beans and Rice Empanadas from the vault, for the perfect snack or appetizer to your Cajun inspired meal. Or give this Jambalaya Pizza a try when you’re feeling like you need to ramp up your pizza toppings. I mean, sure pepperoni is great but sometimes we need a little more, ya know? If you’re not a pizza fan, then make this Jambalaya Pot Pie instead because pot pies are the ultimate comfort food. If you need a cocktail to wash it all down, these Good Morning Margaritas have your name written all over them.
I made these Cajun Stuffed Pasta Shells in partnership with Go Bold With Butter, and I think now is the perfect time to share them with you. I love a good stuffed pasta shell recipe, and sometimes the spinach and sausage recipe I always make just doesn’t cut it. So I came up with this Cajun-inspired take on the classic and I might never look back. If you love jambalaya and gumbo, then you’re going to fall right in love with these. Trust me. It’s the perfect dinner to make when you’re feeling bored of all the dishes you make on a regular basis. Spice up your weekly dinner menu and take a trip down south without having to leave the comfort of your own home.
Let’s start by browning the chicken first. Dice up either boneless skinless chicken breasts, or chicken thighs and season liberally with a Cajun seasoning blend. Cook in a large skillet with a little bit of butter and olive oil until golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and throw in the sliced andouille sausage. Cook until browned as well.
**Note: Andouille sausage is smoked sausage that originated in France and was brought to Louisiana by the French immigrants, and is now a staple in Cajun/Creole cooking.**
Then sauté the veggies in the same skillet, this will develop great flavor. Cook together the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery and bay leaves until softened and just beginning to caramelize, about 5 to 8 minutes.
**Note: In Cajun cooking these veggies (onions, bell peppers and celery) are considered the holy trinity, and they’re the base of so many dishes like Jambalaya and Gumbo, to name a few. Because I want these stuffed shells to have so that traditional Creole taste, it’s important to include them!**
Return the chicken and sausage to the skillet with the veggies and season with a bit of salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool down slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, shredded mozzarella, Cajun seasoning and scallions.
In a medium saucepan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and stir in the flour. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until the butter develops a nutty aroma.
**Note: This is considered a roux, and is usually a mixture of some sort of fat (butter) with flour, and is used as a thickening agent for sauces and stews!**
Stir in the milk and half and half and cook on low until thickened. Season with salt and pepper or Cajun seasoning. Once thickened, add the shredded mozzarella and stir with a wooden spoon until melted through.
**Note: If you don’t have half and half on hand, feel free to just use all milk for the recipe. If you want it to be slightly more decadent, and why wouldn’t you want to, then use heavy cream instead of half and half.**
Stir the cooled veggies/chicken/sausage mixture into the ricotta cheese filling mixture until evenly combined. Then fill jumbo shells, that have been cooked to slightly underdone, with the filling. Pour a little bit of the Cajun cream sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and then place the stuffed shells on top.
**Note: To cook the shells, I brought a large pot of cold water to a boil. Seasoned it with salt and added the pasta. I cooked them until slightly undercooked because they’ll continue to cook in the oven. Drain and let cool until okay to handle.**
Once all the shells have been filled, top each with a bit more of the Cajun cream sauce and sprinkle with more shredded cheese on top. The cheese is optional, but almost necessary.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until bubbly and the cheese on top has melted and golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it because you don’t want them to burn. Remember that everything is cooked through, we’re just looking to heat and melt the cheese.
You can make and fill these a day before. Top them with the sauce and shredded cheese, and then cover with foil and place in the fridge until ready to bake off and eat. Then once you’re ready to cook, just bake in a preheated oven straight from the fridge, adding about 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time. It’s great for dinner, served with a simple salad. If you really want to impress your friends and family, serve this at your next party or gathering. You’ll knock their socks off.
**These Cajun Stuffed Shells were created in partnership with Go Bold With Butter! Thank you for your continued support of the occasional sponsored post on this site. They help keep the blog going, allowing me to continue to share my recipes with you on a weekly basis. I never want my sponsorships to feel forced, which is why I only partner with companies I feel very passionate about and actually use on a regular basis.**