I saw a recipe for pesto and cream cheese-stuffed shells on Pinterest, but I wanted to make them a little more healthy. Shredded zucchini and chopped spinach are great ways to add loads of nutrients without turning kids off to the them - both vegetables meld right into the cream cheese filling. Both of my little girls scarfed them right up!
Also, when I was first learning to cook, I discovered that there is no quicker way for me to get frustrated than trying to stuff filling into shells. I find it so difficult! Those shells keep slipping all over the place, and I can't keep them open with one hand while trying to spoon in filling with my other hand. So, now whenever I make a recipe that calls for stuffed shells, I use lasagna noodles instead. I just break them in half before cooking, lay them flat, dollop the filling on one end and roll them up. So much easier!
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles until al dente, then drain and lay flat in a single layer on a piece of wax paper or tin foil.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, zucchini, spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic and chicken (if using). Salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop one spoonful (about 2-3 tablespoons) of filling onto the end of each noodles, then roll up and place in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Repeat with remaining filling and noodles.
Spread the pesto over the top of the rolled noodles, then sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the cheese is beginning to brown on top. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
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