This post was created in partnership with Wolf. All opinions are our own.
It’s time to reclaim the kitchen, folks. You may have seen my recent trip to Madison, Wisconsin to visit one of our favorite brands to work with, Wolf. Why do we have a soft spot for the brand? Because just like us, Wolf is passionate about growing a passion for cooking. For the past few years, Wolf has put together quite a few educational and inspirational resources on how to cook more (like this really sweet video, which makes me tear up because I’m so passionate on the subject).
This recipe and post are part of the #ReclaimtheKitchen initiative. The goal is to demystify home cooking by sharing actionable tips, tools and techniques to help you reclaim your kitchen. To do this, we’ve created a cozy fall recipe that is adaptable and can work for a dinner with friends or even a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish: pumpkin sage stuffed shells! The shell filling is gooey and cozy, savory pumpkin mixed with ricotta and Mozzarella cheeses, with a bit of fresh sage thrown in. The stuffed shells are baked in our Quick & Simple Marinara, which compliments the filling without overwhelming it. It’s an impressive, showy vegetarian main dish that’s perfect for feeding a crowd. While it takes a bit of time to assemble the components, stuffed shells are fitting for a celebration or a pitch-in table. Best of all, our stuffed shells recipe illustrates a few tools (or “tricks”) that are important for reclaiming the kitchen.
Trick 1: How to make a quick marinara
For those of you who don’t have a go-to marinara sauce, here’s one that’s tasty and takes about 25 minutes. What’s the point of making your own marinara? There’s nothing quite like the flavor of a fresh batch. (However, if you’re in a time bind, there are a lot of high-quality marinara sauces out there these days, so don’t be ashamed!) The tricks to our quick marinara:
- Canned tomato puree: it has a bit of built-in tomato paste, and the sweetness helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes
- Shallots: they have a more delicate flavor than onions and require less sauteing time
- Garlic: ok, that’s really our trick to anything!
- Olive oil + butter: The creaminess of butter helps round out the sauce flavor without simmering for hours
Trick 2: How to salt pasta water
If you’re not an Italian grandmother, you may not know this secret. First of all, make sure to salt your pasta water! Why? It results in tastier pasta. Second, salting your pasta means quite a bit of salt: the water should actually taste salty. Typically if we’re filling a huge pot, we’ll use about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Don’t worry, you won’t actually consume this much salt, as it disperses into the water.
Trick 3: How to quickly wilt greens
For these stuffed shells, we’ve used a trick we picked up a few years ago. Instead of cooking our spinach on the stovetop and dirtying yet another pan, we’ve used the boiling water from the pasta to wilt the greens. It only takes a few seconds. Simply place the spinach leaves in the pasta colander and pour some of the boiling water from the pot over the spinach. Even about half the water from the pot should be enough to entirely wilt the spinach. Then remove the spinach and finish draining your pasta. (You’ll squeeze out all liquid and roughly chop the spinach afterwards.) If you’re ever using spinach or greens in a pasta, this is a nice way to cook it without dirtying a pan. (We’ve also used this technique to cook red peppers in these Peanut Noodles with Napa Cabbage.)
Trick 4: How to quickly chop sage
This trick can be used for any leafy herb or green. The method:
- Chiffonade the leaves. This means stack the leaves, roll them up, and then thinly slice them. Watch this video.
- Lay the thin slices together and slice them the other way, resulting in a fine chop.
We hope you enjoy this stuffed shells recipe! For more on #ReclaimtheKitchen, head to the Reclaim the Kitchen website.
And if you’re looking for ideas, we’ve got lots more vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes.Print
- 12 ounces jumbo shells
- 1 recipe Quick & Simple Marinara (below) or purchased marinara
- 5 ounces baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup Mozzarella cheese
- 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Boil the shells until al dente, according to the package instructions.
- If you’re making the Quick & Simple Marinara, start it now (see below).
- When the pasta is done, you’ll use the boiling pasta water to wilt the spinach. To prepare, place the spinach leaves in the colander. Once the pasta is al dente, remove from the heat and pour over enough boiling water to fully wilt it. Place the pot back on the stove and use a spoon to remove the hot greens to a bowl, then drain the pasta into the colander. Return the pasta to the pan with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking. Squeeze out all the water from the greens using a paper towel, then chop it roughly.
- To make the filling, combine the chopped spinach with the ricotta, Mozzarella, pumpkin puree, chili powder, nutmeg, sage, salt, and several grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Then stir in the egg.
- Spread some of tomato sauce across the bottom of a 9 x 13 and 9 x 9 pans. Fill each shell with the filling, then arrange them in a single layer in the pan: 24 shells in the 9 x 13 and 15 in the 9 x 9.
- Top each pan with shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the filling is warm.
- 2 large shallots
- 4 medium garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 28-ounce can tomato puree
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Mince the shallots and garlic. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and basil and gently sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree, kosher salt, and several grinds black pepper. Bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat and maintain a low simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you have more time, you can simmer a few minutes longer to develop the flavors.)
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious, and a recipe developer and healthy & sustainable food advocate behind the award-nominated food blog A Couple Cooks.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is photographer and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best new cookbooks” by Bon Appetit, and a recipe developer, photographer, and technical expert at A Couple Cooks.