Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Sauce

Like fireworks in the night sky, they exploded over our heads, raining down seeds and guts and orange flesh. This is what happens when you play pumpkin baseball. I never knew smashing pumpkins could be so much fun. Perhaps a bit irreverent, but soon they would become mulch anyhow- so we started the process a few days early. A golden light-filled afternoon spent outside with friends – pressing fresh apples into cider, pumpkin picking, and pumpkin carving -turned into a unforgettable evening.

After dinner, a scavenger hunt entertained the kids, then a jack-o-lantern contest with pumpkin faces all aglow in the dark. Before the night ended, we took to the lawn. Organized lines of pitchers and batters sprayed pumpkin bits across the starry night towards the pumpkin patch. It was messy, beautiful, exhilarating. For a few fleeting minutes I felt like a kid again. Giddy. Oh the incredible lightness of being…

Winter squash, including pumpkins, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, hubbard, and delicata, just to name a few- are grown in summer, harvested in fall, but are called “winter” squash, for their ability to be stored in winter for weeks- without refrigeration. Their thick-skinned exteriors house a sweet creamy interior- quite unexpected, if judging only by appearances.
And it’s this creamy rich quality that makes them perfect for sauces. In this recipe for Stuffed shells with Pumpkin Sauce,   the luscious Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce is a substitution for a creamy bechemal sauce, or an Alfredo sauce and with less calories You can simplify this recipe by only making the sauce, serving it over pasta, gnocchi or ravioli ….or swirling into risotto. It can be further “trimmed-down” or vegan-ified, by substituting vegetable broth and soy milk. Make it your own.

Though winter squash can vary greatly on the outside, with different shapes, sizes and colors ranging from orange to yellow to whites to subtle blues and deep greens, interestingly, they are all similar on the inside- with orange yellow flesh and a center full of seeds. In these photos, I used pumpkin to make the sauce, but keep in mind, butternut or acorn work just as well.

To roast a winter squash, cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, place it on a greased or parchment lined sheet pan and roast in 425F oven for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a fork.

For the stuffed shells, I used Italian sausage and mushrooms and folded in ricotta and mozzarella cheese.. Again, this could easily be made vegetarian by using all mushrooms and perhaps adding a roasted nut like pecans, hazelnuts, or pine nuts.

While the pumpkin is roasting, boil the shells and make the filling.

When the winter squash is tender scoop out the flesh onto a blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. It’s a snap.

Pour a little sauce on the bottom of a greased baking dish.

Place the stuffed shells over top of the sauce.

You can use one large baking dish or several small individual baking dishes.

Pour a little more sauce over the shells if you like saucy dishes.

Cover and bake.

Remove the foil and bake or broil for just a few more minutes to brown them up a little.
Thanks for reading! For more Feasting at Home … 


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Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce
by Sylvia Fountaine- feasting at home blog November-1-2013
Creamy pumpkin Parmesan is great on pasta, ravioli, stirred in risotto or with this stuffed shells.
  • 2 C roasted pumpkin (or any winter squash, or canned pumpkin puree)
  • 24 large pasta “shells” about 10 oz
  • 16 oz Spicy Italian sausage ( or substitute mushrooms)
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic- minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 2 T fresh sage
  • 2 T Pine nuts ( optional)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 Cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 C chicken stock
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/2 C Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • white pepper
  • fresh grated nutmeg or 1/2 tsp ground

Instructions: Pre heat oven to 425F. Cut squash in half, scrape out seeds and place skin side up, on a greased, parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.

Boil water for shells, and cook shells according to directions. Drain, coat with olive oil and set aside.
In the mean time, brown sausage in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Set aside on a paper lined plate. Wipe out skillet, heat 1-2 T olive oil and saute onions over med heat until golden and tender. Add garlic and mushrooms. Saute on med low heat until mushrooms are tender. Add sage, saute for one minute and turn heat off. Replace sausage back in to the pan and stir in pine nuts ( optional) ricotta and mozzarella. Taste for salt ( some sausage is saltier than others) and add 1/4- 1/2 tsp kosher salt -if needed, and cracked pepper. Stir and set aside.

When squash is tender, remove from oven, turn heat down to 350, and turn squash over to cool. Spoon out 2 Cups of roasted squash into a blender with cold chicken stock, milk, Parmesan, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, nutmeg and pepper. Blend until very smooth and silky.

In a large greased baking dish ( or individual ramekins) pour enough sauce to generously coat the bottom. Stuff the shells and place them in the baking dish over the sauce. Pour more sauce over top. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking. You could add more cheese or any remaining sauce to the top at this point, and bake for 10 more minutes.


Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6

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  1. says

    Gah. These look amazing. I seriously can’t get enough of this post! Every element of the recipe sounds positively crave-worthy — and I love that your shells have little basket handles! The better to carry them to my mouth. :)

  2. Anonymous says

    I was looking forward to finding use for my leftover pumpkin, so I was excited when I found this recipe. However, I really did not like the taste the pumpkin gave. It was so terribly bland. I added a bit of all-spice and then added tomato because I didn’t know what else to do with it. Needless to say, the tomato did help out. The shells and filling turned out perfectly though.

    • says

      Thanks for the feedback. I am really sorry the sauce did not turn out. Can you tell me if you followed it exactly -or if you made any modifications? Did you use chicken stock and add parmesan? Will double check the recipe. Again, appreciate you letting me know.

  3. Anonymous says

    I made this tonight for dinner and my husband and I LOVED it! It was a little time consuming, but everything could definitely be made in advance on the weekend (or on a food prep day) and then put together and put in the oven the night you want to eat it. I used butternut squash for the sauce, just because it is what we always use. I added more parmesan and mozzarella to the top after removing the tin foil. This will definitely stay on my fall recipe list. Thank you for the great meal!

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