A Stuffed Shell recipe is one of the first recipes I ever recall asking someone to share. In addition to her delicious cheesecakes, I once ate some killer stuffed shells courtesy Auntie Kathie. At the time, I considered cheesecakes beyond the realm of my abilities, but stuffed shells seemed like a reasonable dish. She shared the recipe, and I enjoyed the stuffed shells every time I made them.
Those stuffed shells were filled with a delicious ground sausage and cheese mixture, and I fully intended to make them for this post until I came across a stuffed shells-meet-fall recipe in a recent issue of Country Living magazine.
The main ingredients for the filling in these stuffed shells are pumpkin and ricotta cheese. I made homemade ricotta cheese, and replaced the basil in the original recipe with spinach. I also used Parmesan cheese in place of Romano cheese. Why the substitutions?
You may have noticed, I substitute quite a few ingredients in recipes. This is less a function of cutting edge creativity and more a function of practicality. For this dish, it seemed silly to track down basil, which I consider a summer herb, when I had plenty of frozen spinach on hand. Same thing for the cheese. Why buy Romano when Parmesan was on hand?
For a long time, I didn’t cook or bake the dishes I really wanted to try as much as I would have liked because the recipes called for one-off ingredients. Practical substitutions help minimize that barrier. They also help me not to waste food (and money). I feel badly when I throw away spoiled items of which I used only a tiny bit before the rest went bad, so I try to use what I have on hand as much as possible.
So how did my substitutions turn out? I liked the filling, but it was a bit more bland than I would have preferred. When I make these again, I will saute the spinach in some olive oil and garlic before I stuff the shells, and maybe season the filling with a dash of cayenne pepper. Try the original version linked in the post above, try my version below, or vary the recipe as you like to suit your tastes. Enjoy!
- 24 Jumbo Pasta Shells
- 2 - 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
- 2 cups Ricotta cheese
- 1 -15-ounce can pumpkin
- 1¼ cups spinach
- ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions.
- While the pasta shells cook, pour the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Drain the cooked shells and transfer to the baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, pumpkin, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill each pasta shell with about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin-ricotta- mixture.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
- If desired, garnish with Parmesan cheese before serving.