Matt and I have really taken a step back this fall. We’ve had a wonderful, crazy year and are enjoying this laid-back, no plans on the weekend, let’s go apple picking kind of fall. This fall has given me a glimpse of how I want to spend my future: grazing the farmer’s market with an iced tea and a full bag of goodies. Spooning a heaping pile of whipped cream onto blackberry french toast at brunch. Chopping vegetables in my kitchen in the afternoon sunlight.
Sure, I still love to explore, to celebrate dinners with friends, to twirl under the sun at summertime concerts. I’ve come to discover, though, that I also love not planning, not scheduling, and not leaving my comfortable home. In this “I’m so busy!” culture we’re living in, it’s been a shocking realization that keeping overall “plans” to a minimum has left me feeling more relaxed than I have in years.
And in rereading that sentence, I realize just how not shocking that realization actually is.
These unplanned weekends have allowed me to cook more than I have all year. Pumpkin pasta , chocolate beer chili , butternut and apple soup …you name it, I’ve tried all the fall foods these past few weeks. But I had to give savory pumpkin another go. Sweet pumpkin has a special place at the table, but let’s not forget the savory cousin, spiced with salt and pepper, mixed with cheese and butter.
On Sunday, the jumbo shells in the back of my pantry called to me, begging to be stuffed with pumpkin puree. Only an hour later, these pumpkin and chorizo stuffed shells were born.
Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? Memories of ricotta stuffed shells, oozing with cheese, are comforting and idyllic, reminding me of exciting forays away from American food in my youth. These shells though, these shells are stuffed with a pumpkin concoction containing the traditional ricotta and the not-so-traditional chorizo sausage, and topped with a few tablespoons of Parmesan to add a little bite.
No sauce needed – the pumpkin mixture is smooth enough to double as both filling and sauce.
Pumpkin and Chorizo Stuffed Shells
by Every Little Thing
Keywords: bake entree side Thanksgiving fall
Ingredients (serves 4)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add shells. Cook until al dente (according to package directions – mine took 12 minutes), then carefully drain and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat chorizo in a large pan over medium heat, breaking apart large pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned (7-8 minutes), then add onion and garlic and combine. Cook over medium heat until onion and garlic are soft and chorizo is completely cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
Turn off heat and add ricotta and pumpkin puree to pan. Stir to combine with chorizo mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste (heavy on the salt), as well as 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Continue stirring until heated through and well combined.
Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray. Fill each shell with 1-2 tablespoons of filling, then line up in dish. My filling filled about 20 jumbo shells. Once lined up, top with the rest of the Parmesan.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. If cheese isn’t browned at this point, turn on broiler and broil 2-3 minutes until brown and bubbling.
These shells are not only easy but truly require little effort on the part of the cook. Brown meat, add onion and garlic. Mix pumpkin, ricotta, Parmesan. Stuff. Sprinkle topping. Bake.
For those hesitant to jump into the world of savory pumpkin, know that the ricotta mutes any sweetness to the pumpkin, and the Parmesan and chorizo add a salty, spicy bite. Heavy salt and pepper wake up the filling, and the crunchy crust that appears after baking will highlight the soft insides.
Did you eat stuffed shells when you were young? I bet you did, but just like me, they had ricotta and not much else. Try these stuffed shells. They may have ricotta, but they bear little resemblance to their ancestors. And that’s a good thing.