I love trying new recipes. I have more cookbooks than I can count, and I am constantly scouring the internet for great new finds. I really enjoy throwing something new into our food lives at least once a week. I wish I had the oomph to be as devoted to new recipes as my friend Jen. She hasn’t repeated a dinner recipe in 16+ years! Truly amazing. We do have some favorites, though, and if I never served certain things again, I think my family might cry. My friends know that I love making new things and they often pass recipes my way. This was the case with the recipe that I’m featuring today. My friend, Tracie, tore this out of a magazine for me because she thought it might be something I’d like to make. She was right. Thankfully, it was an easy recipe for me to split in half. Despite our crazy schedule this week, I wanted to share some of this with my friend who was nice enough to think of me as she flipped through her magazine.
Fall is one of my favorite food times of the year. I love the savory feel of fall food and if I run across a recipe that puts pumpkin to good use, I’m usually all over it. So, when Tracie handed me the recipe for Pumpkin and Ricotta stuffed shells, I knew I had to try it! Pumpkin is for more than just pie, People!
As I read over the recipe, I thought it sounded really good, but there was something missing. I love the combination of sage and pumpkin, so I was excited about that, but I tried to come up with something that might bring out a little more of that savory flavor that I enjoy so much. I decided to dice up a small onion, caramelize it quickly in a little bit of butter, and add that to the filling mix. This recipe was super easy. So easy, that cooking up the onion was probably the trickiest part.
While I had the pasta shells boiling away on the stove, all of the filling ingredients, including the onion I cooked up, went into a large bowl…
Once that was mixed up, the filling was done.
I made this on one of our “Crazy Tuesdays”. Make ahead or crock-pot meals are the key to my sanity some days. That day, I went with the make ahead option. I drained the shells after they were done cooking, and then laid them out on a greased cookie sheet.
The great thing about most stuffed pasta recipes is that they can be made ahead of time and they also freeze really well. I knew that I could stuff the shells earlier in the day and bake them off after all of the craziness subsided, so that’s what I did.
At this point, I covered the cookie sheet with foil and put them in the fridge until I was ready to bake them.
Once we came home from running around, the only thing I had left to do was put some jarred pasta sauce in a couple of baking dishes and then divvy the shells up into the two pans. The entire recipe would fill a 9×13 inch pan, but I wanted to share these with my friend. I split the recipe up between two 8×8 inch pans. One pan held more than plenty for our family of four. If I hadn’t given the other pan to my friend, I could have easily popped the second pan into the freezer for a rainy/crazy day.
The shells baked up while the kids did their homework. When they were done, we all were able to sit down together for a home cooked family meal and, at that point, our crazy day seemed a little calmer. The onions did add a little something, I think. They helped bring out that savory, fall flavor I was looking for. Also, I love to serve meatless dinners every once in a while, even though we are far from vegetarians. I couldn’t help thinking as I made this, that if you’re looking for a meatier version, adding some browned up sausage to the filling would probably be delicious too. Something to try for next time! Thank you, Tracie! I hope you enjoyed them. We did!
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PUMPKIN AND RICOTTA STUFFED SHELLS
Adapted from Country Living Magazine
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- ¾ cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 24 jumbo pasta shells
- olive oil
- 2½ cups low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg white
- 1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 (26 oz.) jar store-bought tomato sauce
- In a small saute pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Cook the pasta shells according to the directions on the package. Spread a little bit of olive oil on a cookie sheet. Drain the pasta shells and then line the shells up on the prepared cookie sheet.
- In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, ricotta, pumpkin, ¾ cup of the parmesan cheese and the remaining ingredients, except for the tomato sauce.
- Fill each pasta shell with a few tablespoons of the ricotta mixture. At this point, the shells can either be covered with foil and chilled until bake time or you can continue with the recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 350*. Spread the jarred sauce in the bottom of one 9×13 pan or two 8×8 pans. Arrange the shells in the baking pan(s).
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with ¼ of parmesan cheese, and bake for 15 minutes more.