My Roasted Pumpkin and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells are such delicious comfort food. There are few things in the culinary world that are more satisfying than having a dish of baked pasta bubbling away in the oven. The edges of the pasta become crispy and brown whilst the filling remains rich and creamy. This is truly a crowd-pleasing meal!
2tablespoonfresh sage - finely choppedSee Notes 1 and 4
¼teaspoonnutmeg - freshly grated
1cup(100 g) grated Parmesan cheeseSee Note 5
salt and pepper - to taste
26large pasta shells (conchiglioni)See Note 6
¼cup(60 g) butter
¼cup(40 g) flour
2cups(500 ml) milk
5clovesgarlic - peeled and finely choppedSee Note 7
½cup(50 g) grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper - to taste
¼cup(25 g) grated Parmesan cheese
fresh sage leaves - optional
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).Peel the pumpkin, and chop into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes. Toss in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until the pumpkin flesh is tender and slightly caramelised - this will take 25 minutes approximately.
Remove the pumpkin and mash with a fork until it is smooth. Allow it to cool slightly.
Once cooled, add the ricotta, fresh sage, Parmesan cheese and nutmeg to the pumpkin.
Combine the mixture well, and season with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.Add the pasta shells and stir well. I cook them for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, but the time will differ between brands. When I use gluten-free shells they take about 5 minutes. Don’t be guided by the cooking time on the packet; the shells must be slightly undercooked as they will finish cooking when heated in the oven.
Drain the shells well and spread them out, concave side down, on a clean tea towel to prevent them from cooking further and ensure all water drains off.
Garlic White Sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and stir frequently for 2 minutes.
Add the flour, and allow it to cook for about 1 minute, being sure to whisk or stir frequently.Add in half of the milk, whisking constantly. Add the remainder of the milk and continue to whisk.
Add your Parmesan and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the mixture thickens. If it thickens too much, add a little additional milk.
Assembling the Shells :
Preheat oven to 180 Degrees C (350 F).
Put ⅓ cup of the garlic white sauce in the base of a large ovenproof dish. Using a dessert spoon, fill the pasta shells with the pumpkin and ricotta mixture, and place in the ovenproof dish.
Drizzle the remainder of the garlic cream sauce over the pasta shells. Top with a ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese.
To prevent the shells from burning, cover with foil for the first 30 minutes that they're in the oven. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for the final 10 minutes. With the tip of a sharp knife, check that the pasta is completely cooked.Sprinkle with additional fresh sage prior to serving if you wish.
In Australia, the tablespoon is 20 ml or 4 teaspoons. In many other countries, it is 15 ml or 3 teaspoons. You may have to adjust the recipe accordingly.
I have used Kent pumpkin. It is sweet and has a firm texture. If you prefer, you can use canned pumpkin, and omit the step of roasting the pumpkin to create your own puree. You will need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
I generally buy a tub of ricotta from the supermarket and gently turn it onto paper towel to absorb excess moisture. If you buy a wedge of ricotta from the deli section at the supermarket it has a drier consistency and you will not need to drain it.
Use only fresh sage; the dried herb does not have the same flavour.
For the best flavour, use a good quality Parmesan. I use Grana Padano; it has great flavour and is less expensive than Parmiggiano Reggiano. Avoid pre-grated cheese; they often contain additives.
The number of shells may vary depending on their size. The dish is gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta shells and flour in the sauce.
Always use fresh garlic; the flavour is more vibrant than the jarred variety.
This dish can be prepared the day before and baked when required. And if there should happen to be any leftovers, It does reheat well, with a little additional moisture – ie: cream/water.
Please note, the nutritional information is based on this recipe serving six people (approximately 4 pasta shells). It does not include what the dish is served with. The nutritional information is an estimate only.