Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Ooh ooh! Look! Comfort food!

And not just any comfort food. This has everything you need, including but not limited to pasta, fontina cheese, sausage, pumpkin and accompanying seasonal spices. So many flavors in each delightful little bite!

These Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Cream Sauce are a wonderful Fall spin on a classic dish. Even though I love basically every baked good made with pumpkin ever, this season I've been trying to incorporate pumpkin into more savory dishes. And, based on how ah-mazing this recipe turned out, that happens to be a very, very good idea.

The idea for these stuffed shells was born first and foremost from my desire to make a pumpkin and sage cream sauce, filled with nutty fontina cheese, creamy pumpkin, fresh sage plus cinnamon, nutmeg and a little red pepper flake. I knew I wanted these shells to be both meaty and cheesy, so I built the filling around savory ground sausage to really bring out the sage. Combine that with a bit of ricotta cheese, more pumpkin, spinach and parmesan and you will be well on your way to the ultimate Fall pasta dish!

Are you hosting a holiday party or Friendsgiving this year? Have you been tasked with bringing the first course to a family dinner? Look no further than this recipe right here! Don't be intimidated by the number of steps - everything about making this dish is therapeutic plus you have the promise of aaaall this deliciousness at the finish line!

Here's what you need for Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Cream Sauce* (Print Recipe!)

1 pound large shell pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
2 packed cups chopped baby spinach
2 tablespoons chopped sage, divided
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 cup plus 3 heaping tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded fontina cheese
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Here's what you do

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until very al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water then strain the shells and rinse with cold water and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat and swirl in the olive oil. Add the shallot and sausage, cooking until browned and crumbled. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, spinach and one tablespoon of sage, stirring until the spinach has wilted. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the ricotta, 3 heaping tablespoons pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Stuff each shell with a couple of heaping tablespoons of the sausage and ricotta mixture and arrange in the baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Cook for about 1 minute to get rid of the raw flour flavor. Slowly whisk in the milk then increase heat slightly. When the milk is steaming and just starting to bubble along the edges, whisk in the remaining pumpkin puree, parmesan cheese, and sage, as well as 1 1/2 cups fontina cheese, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. If the sauce becomes too thick, splash in a bit of the reserved pasta water until desired consistency is reached.

Pour the sauce all over the stuffed shells and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of fontina. Cover the baking sheet with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more until the cheese is starting to brown and the sauce is bubbly. Allow to cool for a few minutes then serve with extra grated parmesan and cracked black pepper to taste.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe

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