SAM 4360 Edited Stuffed: Shells

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.

SAM 4368 Edited e1321143701214 Stuffed: Shells

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?

SAM 4372 Edited Stuffed: Shells

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!

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells
  • 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
  1. Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions.
  2. While the pasta shells cook, pour the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Drain the cooked shells and transfer to the baking dish.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, pumpkin, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Fill each pasta shell with about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin-ricotta- mixture.
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
  7. If desired, garnish with Parmesan cheese before serving.
If making homemade ricotta cheese, a half-gallon of milk should yield two cups.

67E87027C4CC634217943A944D12A08F Stuffed: Shells

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