Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

It's fall!  I am so excited about fall flavors, fall produce and fall holidays, I cannot contain myself.  This week we've had a lot of pumpkin.   This recipe in particular, I could not wait to share.

I absolutely love pumpkin, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I was making it soon.  The shells are stuffed with ground beef and spinach, then topped with a pumpkin cheese sauce.  My kids gobbled them up, unaware of the fact that they were eating TWO vegetables!  I made two pans.  One for us and one to bring to a friend who just had a baby.   I am going to try to make this again without the ground beef stuffing and just do a baked macaroni and cheese with a smaller pasta.

The only major change I made this time around to the original recipe was using fresh pumpkin.  Whenever a recipe calls for canned pumpkin, I roast and puree a fresh pumpkin instead.  Why?  Because it's not difficult.  Also, most canned pumpkin is actually hubbard squash.  And I want pumpkin.  

If you're planning to roast your own, you want a small pumpkin.   In the grocery store, they are usually called either "sugar pumpkins" or "pie pumpkins".  Save the big pumpkins for your jack o'lantern.  Roasting it is as easy as washing the outside, slicing it in half and roasting it cut side down on a sheet pan for about 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees.   When it comes out of the oven, you can easily scoop away the seeds and the stringy parts.  Then the flesh will easily scoop out of the shell.   At this point, I toss the flesh into my food processor and even out the texture.  Roasted pumpkin can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.  I usually use what's left in pumpkin pancakes the next morning.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
slightly adapted from Every Day with Rachel Ray

20 jumbo pasta shells
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic
1 bag baby spinach, washed, rinsed, long stems removed and chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 1/3 cups shredded cheddar (It's possible that I used closer to 2 cups)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup roasted, pureed pumpkin
parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot, cook the pasta shells in boiling water according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse, then spread out on a sheet pan so they don't stick together while the rest of the dish comes together.     Set the pot aside and do not wash.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter until butter melts.  Add the diced onion, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.   Add the ground beef.  Cook until no longer pink, breaking up any large pieces with your spoon.    Add the spinach to the pan and toss to combine until wilted.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar.   Set aside.

In the pasta pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in 1/2 cup milk until it is smooth, then add the rest of the milk.   Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.   Let boil for 1 minute.   Remove from the heat; season with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the pumpkin puree and remaining shredded cheddar.

Cover the bottom of a greased baking dish with 1/2 cup of the pumpkin sauce.  Stuff the cooked shells with beef mixture, and place them in the prepared pan with the openings facing down.  Spoon the remaining cheese sauce over the shells.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.   Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving.


Tara M. said...

Although pumpkin is all over the food blog world now, this is the one that's most interested me! Rachel Ray had a pasta with pumpkin & sausage recipe that is worth trying too!

All Things Yummy said...

Just added this to my Pinterest. Looks so good.