OK, so they’re not that photogenic, but I promise they taste 500 times better than they look!
My Mom gave me her Rachel Ray magazine to read on the plane on the way back from Massachusetts a few weeks ago. When I flipped to this recipe, I was instantly intrigued. I’ve made a savory pumpkin pasta before (another Rachel Ray recipe, actually), so I already knew it worked. The shells just added another fun twist! I’ve never made stuffed shells before, so this was the perfect opportunity!
Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Shells
(adapted from Rachel Ray)
- 20 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 lb baby spinach
- 4 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 large onion, diced
- salt & pepper
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 1/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
- 8-10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
Cook the shells in a large pot of boiling water, according to package directions. Drain, rinse and transfer to a dish and cover with damp paper towels.
Add one inch of water to the same pot and bring to a boil. Add half the spinach. When in wilts, add the second half and cook until wilted. Rinse with cold water and squeeze to dry the spinach as much as possible. Chop the spinach.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter. Add the onion, season with s & p and cook over medium-high heat until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped spinach until well mixed. Stir in 1/3 cup shredded cheddar. Let cool.
To make the sauce, heat milk in a microwave. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1/2 cup hot milk, then the rest. When it boils, whisk 1 minute. Remove from the heat; season salt and pepper. Whisk in pumpkin. Stir in remaining cheddar. Cover to prevent a skin from forming.
Hold a pasta shell in one hand and stuff with a large spoonful of the beef-spinach mixture (about a 1-inch ball). Cover the stuffed shells with a damp towel as you work.
Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Smear the bottom with 1/2 cup of the pumpkin sauce. Arrange the stuffed shells in the prepared pan with the openings face-down.
Spoon the remaining sauce on top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling hot, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before decorating with basil leaves.
The shells were great! The sauce is really ooey gooey good. Nick was a little deceived… he thought I made nacho cheese shells! Haha, I guess it did look like that. But he liked them, even after I told him what it REALLY was! I caught him eating them cold, straight from the pan, the next day, so I know he wasn’t just being nice when he said he liked them!