Paneer Bhurji Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells!!! Who doesn’t love a little boat of pasta stuffed with deliciousness, swimming in creamy goodness?! These are absolutely great for serving to a crowd, especially great for a vegetarian main course during the holidays! Ive made them with paneer and veggies but you could most certainly make a meat version of these using ground chicken or ground turkey! Oh, these definitely require some sort of a garlic bread on the side! You can make life easy and pop in some good ol Texas Toast in the oven or serve it with my Green Garlic Bread. Here’s what you can do ahead:
  1. Make the paneer stuffing 1-2 days ahead of time and keep it refrigerated
  2. If you don’t want to make the paneer completely ahead of time, you can prep the garlic, chop the peppers, crumble the paneer ahead of time.
  3. The chopping can be a bit of work, so use this Amazing Chopper from Amazon to help you get through it!
  4. You can cook the shells and pre stuff the shells the day you’re serving it, just make sure you keep them covered so they do not dry out. Pour the sauce on the shells right before baking the shells. Pouring the sauce ahead of time will make them too soggy.
Other Notes for this recipe:
  1. I  use Swad brand paneer but there are a ton of options!
  2. I    used whatever veggies I  had for the veggie mixture, so feel free to replace the mushrooms or spinach with other veggies like eggplant, kale etc. 
  3. When you boil the shells, make sure you do not over cook them since they will cook again in the oven during the baking process. Boil them until they are about 80 percent cooked and then they will continue cooking off during the baking process.
  4. This recipe makes about 25-30 shells and if you have plenty of other sides, about 3 shells per person is a decent serving. If this is really your main course with minimal other sides, then account for 4-6 shells per person.
  5. Leftover paneer can be used on flatbread or pizza crust to make paneer bhurji pizzas or place it in a paratha with chutney for a quick wrap!
Here are some other vegetarian main courses you can make for Thanksgiving:
  1. Veggie Tikka Masala Stuffed Shells
  2. Chimichangas with Queso 
  3. Spicy Mac & Cheese
  4. Creamy Poblano Enchiladas
  5. Green Garlic Bread

Paneer Bhurji Stuffed Shells

Yield 6-8 People

Ingredients

Paneer:

  • 2-3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tomato finely diced
  • 3 serrano chilis, finely diced 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander cumin powder (Dhana Jiru)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1-2 tsp salt ( to taste)
  • 12 oz box Jumbo Shells 
  • 14 oz. package of Paneer, crumbled by hand
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • chopped cilantro for garnish 

Vegetables:

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (3.5 oz container) 
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 2-3 cups spinach leaves

Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flower
  • 2 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2-3 cups grated or shaved parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce ( try Annie's vegetarian version )

Instructions

  1. While you prep and chop the ingredients, heat a large pot of water to boil and cook the shells until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet heat 2-3 tbsp oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and let them splutter for a few seconds and then add the serrano peppers. Continue to stir until the green chilis have slightly softened.
  3. Add the onions and cook for a few more minutes until they are soft. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric powder, chili powder and coriander-cumin powder. Continuously stir, lowering the heat if necessary to keep the spices from burning. 
  4. Cook continuously until the garlic is fragrant (but not browning) and then add the crumbled paneer. Stir gently (in a folding over motion) until all of the seasonings are well incorporated into the paneer. Cook for about 5-7 minutes and then stir in the garam masala and cilantro.
  5. Remove the paneer from the pan into a large bowl and re use the same pan for the veggies.
  6. Heat some oil in the sam pan and add in the sliced mushrooms with a pinch of salt, stirring constantly until they release their liquid. Add in the red and green peppers, corn, spinach and 1 tsp minced garlic while continuously cooking. You want these veggies to keep their crisp bite and not over cook. After the spinach is wilted through remove from heat.
  7. Add the veggies to the paneer mixture a long with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and gently fold the ingredients together.

The Sauce:

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and melt the butter. As the butter melts, add 2 tbsp minced garlic, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic or butter from browning, lower the heat if necessary. Once the butter and garlic looks foamy and garlic is fragrant, add in the flour.
  2. Continue to cook the flour, while stirring constantly until the flour is nutty in aroma and starting to turn golden. At this point gently pour in the 3 cups of broth with one hand while whisking the mixture in the other hand. (Turn the stove to medium high heat at this point so you have a slow simmer going).
  3. Once all of the broth is added in, slowly add in the cream by 1/2 cup, waiting for the sauce to come to a slow simmer after each pour. Once all the cream is added in, turn the pot to low heat.
  4. Add in worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and clove and stir. Add the parmesan cheese to the sauce one handful at a time and stirring into the sauce until its creamy (the sauce should not be simmering or boiling at this point but just be hot enough to melt the parmesan- turn off the stove completely if necessary). The sauce will thicken upon standing. Taste the sauce for salt after adding the cheese. 
  5. Taste the sauce and add more cheese for extra richness and saltiness!

Assemble the Shells:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cover the bottom of a baking dish or casserole with enough sauce to generously cover the bottom.
  3. Spoon the paneer mixture into the shells and arrange in the baking dish.
  4. Once all the shells are snugly arranged, pour the sauce all over the shells until they look saucy enough (you may not use all the sauce and you can pour more sauce on the side after they shells have done baking).
  5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the shells in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes until you start to see the sauce simmer. You can check to see if the filling is hot and make sure the shells are completely cooked through and fork tender (but do not overcook).
  6. Uncover the shells, top with mozzarella cheese and place back in the oven at low broil to brown the cheese. 
  7. Remove from oven, top with chopped cilantro and serve hot !!

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