The measurements were a little fussy so I changed them in order to make enough food to make two complete dinners. Both Chuck and I agreed that this needed a little more tomato taste, so when I make this again I may try adding an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce. I am not going to write it into the actual recipe until I try it though - let me know if you attempt it that way! If you like the way pesto tastes, you can definitely increase that amount as well. There was a nice subtle flavor but definitely room for more!
Baked Shells with Pesto, Mozzarella, and Meat Sauce
amounts adapted from Food & Wine
Makes about 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package (usually about 1.25 pounds) ground beef
28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto
1 pound medium pasta shells
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat either a 15 x 10 baking dish or two 8 x 8 baking dishes with cooking spray.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain off any excess fat.
Add the tomatoes and salt to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in pesto.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente as directed on package, about 7-8 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce.
If using a 15 x 10 dish: Put half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with one cup mozzarella and 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Repeat with the remaining pasta, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
If using two 8 x 8 dishes: Put 1/4 of the pasta mixture in each of the prepared dishes. Top each with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat layers in each dish.
Bake until bubbling and slightly browned on top, about 15 minutes.