It’s a pumpkin party! October is pumpkin season and even though I haven’t been to the pumpkin patch, I’ve been pumpkin-ing it up like crazy. I know there’s a bit of pumpkin backlash, what with the obsessions with pumpkin spice lattes and all, but it’s okay with me, even if it’s incredibly basic to be into pumpkin. I love the way it tastes: earthy, and comforting, and so full of fall.
Pumpkin is best roasted – the sweetness really starts to shine and the pumpkin flesh becomes soft and yielding, almost a little bit like custard, but with a bit more body. Roast pumpkin is delicious on its own, but when you cook it with a little bit of sage, it’s over the top addictive.
I have to admit, I had a little bit of a nudge to make this recipe – Sarah, over at Cake Over Steak is hosting a #virtualpumpkinparty, so I decided to get into the spirit with a little cheesy pork and pumpkin stuffed shell action. Cubed roasted pumpkin is mixed in with crispy browned pork and sage then stuffed into al dente pasta shells. The shells nestle into a simple marinara blanket before cozying up with some marinara and extra cheese on top.
These guys are cheesy, hearty, and full of fall flavors. Stuffed shells are so addictive, both to eat and make. Hope you guys are getting your pumpkin on! If you need some inspiration, be sure to check out the party, over at Sarah’s! See you there!
Pumpkin and Pork Cheesy Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 1/2 small pumpkin, about 1 1/2 cups small dice
- 5-6 fresh sage leaves
- grapeseed, or other neutral oil, as needed
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 16 large pasta shells
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
- 2 cups marinara sauce
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Peel and cube the pumpkin (In the photos, I sliced, but cubing will cook faster and eliminate the need for you to cube later). Place on a baking sheet (I lined my baking sheet for easy clean up) and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Nestle 5-6 fresh sage leaves into the pumpkin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden and very tender.
In a frying pan, heat up a touch of oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, until slightly soft. Add the pork, and cook, breaking up, until golden brown and cooked through. Stir in the sage and red pepper flakes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl.
By now your pumpkin should be nice and tender. Remove from the oven and stir into the pork mixture. Let everything cool slightly so that you can touch it comfortably. Be sure to leave the oven on as you’re going to bake the casserole. While the pork-pumpkin mix is cooling, cook the shells according to the package and drain. Typically I never rinse pasta, but in this case, we want to be able to touch the shells, so rinse off in cool pasta.
Mix 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella into the pumpkin mix and give it another taste and adjust seasoning accordingly, if needed. Spread out 1 cup of marinara sauce in a square (8 or 9 inch) oven-proof casserole dish and set aside. Stuff each shell with a generous amount of filling, placing the stuffed shells in the sauced dish. Stuff all the shells – you may have leftover filling, which tastes great on it’s own, or you can lay it on top of the shells. Top the shells with the remaining 1 cup of sauce and remaining 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella.
Bake the dish for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is golden. Remove and let cool slight before enjoying!