Allison: Where did you get fresh basil and sage?
ME: I didn't. I used a few dried herbs from my cabinet.
Allison: Did you get the pecorino Romano from Kroger?
ME: No, I used the Parmesan cheese in the shaker canister.
Allison: I thought Steve didn't like garlic.
ME: He doesn't, so I left it out. But I snuck in a little garlic powder.
You get the idea. So, I am pleased to pass this family favorite along to you, with my adaptations in italics.
Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Country Living/ October 2011
24 jumbo pasta shells (cook the whole box, they don't all survive intact!)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I didn't use this, although it probably keeps them moister)
22 ounces (2 1/2 cups) fat-free ricotta (my container was a few ounces more, but I used the whole thing)
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (I have used both puree and solid pack pumpkin, which is easier to find at the store. Both work.)
2 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)pecorino Romano, grated (I used grated parmesan from the shaker canister)
1 large egg white
2 garlic cloves, minced (I substituted a little garlic powder)
1 cup fresh basil and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (I used 1 teaspoon each of dried thyme, basil, parsley and marjoram instead)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (26 ounce) jar store-bought tomato sauce (I used a 24 ounce can of Hunt's Four Cheese spaghetti sauce)
1. Cook pasta shells according to package instructions; drain. Transfer to a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Set aside and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup of pecorino Romano, and remaining ingredients, except tomato sauce.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Spread sauce in bottom of 9x13" baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with about 3 tablespoons ricotta-pumpkin mixture and arrange in pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining pecorino, and bake for 15 minutes more. (If desired, stuff shells the night before and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container, in between layers of plastic wrap; arrange shells on sauce right before baking.) This might be where the drizzle of olive oil would come in handy.
I refrigerate what's left over and microwave future servings as needed. It's just as delicious the second (and third) time around.
If you are intimidated by the idea of stuffing the shells, don't be! I was, too, but if I can do it I know you can. Figure out how 3 tablespoons of filling relates to a 1/4 cup measuring cup, and use that- it's easier than spooning out 3 separate tablespoons each time. Hold the shell in your palm, propping it open with your thumb and forefinger. Fill it with the measuring cup in the other hand. Since my larger container of ricotta makes a bit of extra filling, I am usually able to generously stuff about 28 shells, which is about how many usually don't fall apart before I can get them stuffed.
For another great pumpkin treat, try my favorite Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread recipe.
Be on the lookout for my upcoming experiments with Parmesan Pumpkin pasta sauce!