Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Sage Butter and Mushrooms

I slaughtered the first of two of our Halloween pumpkins this weekend and wanted to try something other than pumpkin bready things (pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, etc.)  So, I cooked it, scooped it, strained it and pureed it.  I'll break that down a bit.  I let the oven heat up to 350 degrees while I cut the pumpkin into quarters or 4 large pieces by cutting the pumpkin in half tall ways and then cutting the halves in half again lengthwise.  I covered three deep pans in tin foil and then placed cooling racks over them.  After scooping out the guts from pumpkins, I placed them on the racks.  I had two square pans and one long pan (that's why there's three but use whatever pans you have that will hold the sized pumpkin you have).  The reason why I use deep dish pans is because pumpkins have a lot of water in them.  Once they start cooking, they'll drip.  Put them in the oven and let them cook until they deflate.  Once they've deflated, let them cool enough to be able to scoop out the pumpkin with a spoon.  It will come off of the skin easily.  Press each quarter through a sieve or a very fine, mesh strainer using the back of a spoon.  More water will drain out of the pumpkin.  Once it's thick and dense, place the pumpkin meat into a food processor and process until it is smooth and no longer stringy.

While the pumpkin is cooking, put one and a half sticks of butter into a pan along with a handful of fresh sage a split garlic clove, a dash of fresh lemon or lime juice and about a 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the pumpkin is ready to be removed from the oven, turn it off and place the butter mixer in the oven to melt.  Once melted, remove.

Boil some water and add a fair amount of salt to it for cooking the pasta shells.  You can use any type of pasta that you stuff (tubes, layered lasagna, etc.)  Mix equal amounts of pumpkin meat with ricotta cheese, a few handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese, a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds (mine were bought roasted and salted - I didn't toast them and wished I had for more crunch (next time) but they were still good) and few dashes of nutmeg.  I used one container of ricotta and was able to fill 18 shells.  Four to five shells usually feeds one person along with some bread.  

Clean and slice mushrooms.  You could use any vegetable you like.  I just really love mushrooms and found that the earthiness of the mushrooms went really well with the pumpkin and butter and cheese.  I used about a half of a container of whole, white mushrooms but wish I'd added more.  I'll use a whole container next time.

Once the shells become soft, remove them from the water and place them on a plate or other surface.  They should not be completely cooked because they'll cook more while in the oven baking.  They cool pretty quickly so you'll be able to fill them with the mixture right after removing them from the water.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and then line the bottom with the sliced mushrooms.  Rest the filled shells on top of the mushrooms.  Once all of the shells are in the baking dish, top with more mozzarella cheese and then pour strained butter mixture on top of shells.  I topped with what little mozzarella I had left in the bag because you can't have too much cheese and then I even topped that with some grated parmigiano region.

Bake, covered for 35-40 minutes or until all of the cheese is melted and the butter sauce is bubbling in the baking dish.  Uncover and let the top brown which is 10-15 minutes.  Place the bread in the oven at this time.  Serve, topped with chives and alongside bread.

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