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In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Pumpkin puree isn’t just for dessert. You’ll use a 15-ounce can of it in Pumpkin Stuffed Shells.

Ileana Morales Valentine | Special to the Times

Pumpkin puree isn’t just for dessert. You’ll use a 15-ounce can of it in Pumpkin Stuffed Shells.

Lots of travel in November brought autumn vibes into my Florida-based life. Work took me to Chicago during the first week of last month, where everyone was high off of a Cubs win and the days were crisp but sunny. The following weekend, my husband and I went to New York City with a couple of friends, and we walked around Central Park marveling at the brilliant red and turmeric-yellow leaves. Thanksgiving took us, along with my parents and sisters, to the Midwest to spend the holiday with my in-laws.

It has been a cold but cozy few weeks. And while there was a lot of dining out, my weekends flirting with autumn made me want to cook something hearty when I got home.

This idea for a cozy dinner came around the time I discovered a new technique for baked pasta from J. Kenji López-Alt, author of the Food Lab column and award-winning cookbook of the same name. López-Alt soaks the pasta instead of parboiling. So while I prepared the sauce and filling, the pasta soaked and I didn't have to hover over a boiling pot of water.

There's usually a can of pumpkin puree lingering in my pantry this time of year, and I decided to use it for dinner instead of dessert. For the dish, I landed on Pumpkin Stuffed Shells, in which jumbo shells are stuffed with pumpkin puree that has been mixed with ricotta and sage-infused brown butter. The whole things gets topped with Marcella Hazan's famously easy and irresistible tomato sauce. And at the end, brown-butter-fried sage leaves serve as garnish.

It's a very cozy dinner situation for fall, whether it sticks around for months or comes in fickle but friendly cold fronts.

Ileana Morales Valentine lives in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, Say hello at


Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

This cozy baked pasta dish puts that can of pumpkin in the pantry to good use. I soaked the pasta instead of parboiling it, which saved me from having to use another pot. Feel free to use your favorite tomato sauce; mine is made using Marcella Hazan's recipe, the easiest, most delicious sauce I've made at home.

12 ounces jumbo pasta shells

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 ½ sticks butter, divided

1 onion

1 sprig fresh sage

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

16 ounces whole milk ricotta

2 tablespoons sour cream

½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Soak pasta in a bowl filled with warm water for 30 minutes, making sure to stir after the first few minutes to prevent sticking. Alternatively, boil the pasta until al dente. Drain.

To make the tomato sauce, combine crushed tomatoes, ½ stick butter and onion in saucepan set over medium heat. Season with salt and simmer for about 45 minutes. Discard onion before serving.

Meanwhile, place 1 stick butter in a small pan set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sage leaves. Let butter keep cooking to brown the butter; it's done when the crackling sound has died down and it has a nutty fragrance. Remove from heat and let cool; remove sage leaves with a slotted spoon and set aside to use later for garnish.

In a bowl, mix the pumpkin, ricotta, sour cream, ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and a pinch of salt. Pour cooled brown butter into pumpkin mixture and carefully stir to combine.

Ladle about ¼ cup tomato sauce into the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with the pumpkin mixture and arrange in one layer in the baking dish. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until cheese and sauce is bubbling at the edges. Garnish with the fried sage leaves and serve.

Serves 6.

Source: Ileana Morales Valentine

In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Pumpkin Stuffed Shells 12/12/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 12, 2016 10:53am]
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