[It's the Great] Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

 I'm serving these amazing pumpkin stuffed shells the night before the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Chase 10K and 2 mile fun run/walk. 

I'm serving these amazing pumpkin stuffed shells the night before the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Chase 10K and 2 mile fun run/walk. 

When I eat pasta I want the dish to be bursting with flavor instead of me bursting at the seams. I came across this fantastic pumpkin recipe last year and adapted it for my family and out-of-town-guests to serve for dinner the night before the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Chase 10K and 2-mile fun run/walk near my house.

Pumpkin is such a nutrient rich and fairly low-carb fruit that it seems a shame to showcase all of our pumpkin recipes during the October and November holidays. But then again maybe that's why these dishes always seem so special and festive.

The pumpkin puree combined here with the tomato sauce and vegetable broth is the flashy, attention-getting winner here, but the pumpkin-spinach-ricotta mixture, which helps to balance the carbs with protein, is a close runner up. For the jumbo shells I prefer Felicetti Monograno Matt Conchiglioni Organic Pasta, but if you can't find them or order them online (Amazon is currently out of stock) in time, you can always use the readily available Barilla Jumbo Shells. Send me a note if you find jumbo shells you've fallen in love with!

I spoon the mixture into the cooked shells, but you could use a pastry bag or put the mixture into a plastic bag and snip off the end to pump the mixture into the shells. My niece Sofie told me she made the recipe for her roommates after she returned from the weekend to Brooklyn, and it was a hit. She's got some lucky roommates!

[It's the Great] Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 24 extra large pasta shells (actually I don't count the shells - just use as many as you want to line the pan!)
  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, divided (you'll need 1 1/2 cups for the pumpkin-ricotta-spinach mixture and 1 cup for the pumpkin/tomato sauce)
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, divided (you'll need 1/2 cup for the pumpkin/ricotta/spinach mixture plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • Pinch of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to make it

  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cook the shells according to the package directions, but you'll want them to be firm, maybe cooking them for only about 10 minutes depending on the brand you're using. Drain and rinse the shells with cold water.
  • In a bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, the egg and egg whites, 1/2 cup Parmesan, spinach, thyme, and nutmeg together. Season with pepper.
  • In another bowl, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 1 cup pumpkin, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon some sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish or 2 smaller square dishes. Fill the shells with a generous amount of the pumpkin-spinach-ricotta mixture. Place the filled shells in the dish, facing up, and pour the remaining tomato sauce mixture over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and some ground pepper.
  • Use cooking spray to line the inside of a large piece of foil, cover the shells with the foil, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown.