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These pumpkin stuffed shells are a stunning vegetarian main dish! Three cheeses, spinach and pumpkin puree are baked up in a quick marinara.

Pumpkin stuffed shells

It’s time to reclaim the kitchen, folks. For the past few years, we’ve put together quite a few educational and inspirational resources on how to cook more. These pumpkin stuffed shells are all about reclaiming the kitchen! Why? Keep reading for our cooking tips that make this stuffed shells recipe delicious and doable.

Related: 12 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

Stuffed shells with spinach

Reclaiming the kitchen…with pumpkin stuffed shells

This pumpkin stuffed shells recipe is part of our initiative to demystify home cooking by sharing actionable tips, tools and techniques to help you reclaim your kitchen. To do this, we’ve created cozy fall stuffed shells that can work for a dinner with friends or a date night in.

The 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 then baked in our quick tomato sauce, which compliments the filling without overwhelming it. It’s an impressive, showy vegetarian main dish that’s perfect for feeding a crowd. It works as a cozy fall dinner, or even a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish.

While these pumpkin stuffed shells take a bit of time to assemble the components, they’re perfect for a celebration. Best of all, the recipe illustrates a few tools (or “tricks”) that are important for reclaiming the kitchen. Ready to get started?

Pumpkin stuffed shells

Trick 1: How to make a quick tomato sauce

Here’s a go-to marinara sauce that’s tasty and takes literally 5 minutes. It’s actually…pizza sauce! Yes, our Homemade Easy Pizza Sauce recipe is perfect for pasta, too. And it’s so, so simple: just pop the ingredients in the blender and whiz it up! Another great option is our Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, which also has meat or veggie crumbles.

If you don’t have 5 minutes, you can always use your favorite jar of purchased marinara (just make sure it’s high quality).

Trick 2: How to salt pasta water

If you’re not an Italian grandmother, you may not know this secret. Liberally salt your pasta water! Why? It results in tastier pasta. And did you know that the water should actually taste salty….like salt water? 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 that is eventually drained out.

Pumpkin stuffed shells

Trick 3: How to quickly wilt greens

For this pumpkin stuffed shells recipe, we’ve used one of our favorite tricks to “cook” spinach without really cooking it all. Instead of cooking it on the stovetop and dirtying yet another pan, here’s what you do: use the boiling water from the pasta to wilt the greens!

Simply place the spinach leaves in the colander where you’ll drain the pasta. Then 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 with tongs to a boil, and finish draining your pasta. If you’re ever using spinach or greens in a pasta, this is a nice way to cook it without dirtying a pan. (We use this technique to cook red peppers in our Peanut Noodles with Napa Cabbage.)

Trick 4: How to quickly chop sage

This pumpkin stuffed shells recipe is infused with fall flavor using the herb sage. Quickly chopping sage can speed up this recipe. This trick can be used for any leafy herb or green:

  1. Chiffonade the leaves. This means stack the leaves, roll them up, and then thinly slice them. Watch this video.
  2. Lay the thin slices together and slice them cross-wise, resulting in a fine chop.
Stuffed shells with pumpkin filling

Related: Another favorite Italian-style recipe — our Margherita pizza!

This pumpkin stuffed shells recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten free, use gluten free pasta.

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Pumpkin Sage Stuffed Shells | A Couple Cooks

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x


These pumpkin stuffed shells are a stunning vegetarian main dish! Two cheeses, spinach and pumpkin puree are baked up in a quick marinara.


  • 12 ounces jumbo shells
  • Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, double recipe of Homemade Easy Pizza Sauce (you can use a 28 ounce can tomatoes), or 28-ounce jar purchased marinara sauce
  •  5 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped sage
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Boil the shells until al dente, according to the package instructions.
  3. Make the Homemade Spaghetti Sauce or Homemade Easy Pizza Sauce.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Spread the tomato sauce across the bottom of the 9 x 13 and 9 x 9 baking dishes. Fill each shell with the filling, then arrange them in a single layer in the baking dishes: 24 shells in the 9 x 13 and 15 in the 9 x 9.
  7. Top each pan with shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the filling is warm.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Looking for pumpkin recipes? 

Outside of this pumpkin stuffed shells recipe, here are a few of our favorite pumpkin recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Liz says:

    This has been a family favorite for a couple years now! We have about 30 family members coming into town for a few days in the near future and I’m trying to prep as much of the food ahead of time as possible… any tips on making this ahead of time and freezing it to bake/serve later?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Great question! We have not tried making ahead of time and freezing but it would most likely work! However for best flavor you could make the components separately and bake day of. (I find frozen pasta gets a little mushy.) I’d cook and refrigerate the noodles (boil to just under al dente) and make and refrigerate the filling. Then assemble and bake day of!

  2. Melanie says:

    Could this be made a day ahead then reheated? If yes, what would be the best way to reheat?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Great question! Yes, you can make the entire dish in advance and reheat. Re-warm the pan in a 375 degree oven. Let us know how it goes!

  3. Terri S Greenwald says:

    Hi. Where are you putting the rest of the sauce, just on top after it’s plated? And just because i missed seeing it in the directions, does NOT mean it isnt there……
    Thank you

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Good question: the tomato sauce is just for the bottom of the pans. We’ve updated the recipe to be more clear. Thank you!

  4. Abby @ Heart of a Baker says:

    Oh man, these look like EXACTLY what I need for dinner tonight! I’m so glad you got to experience lovely Madison, it’s such a beautiful part of the state! xo

    1. Sonja says:

      It was so wonderful! Wisconsin rocks. THANKS for the welcome and the kind comment!

  5. Sophie says:

    When I went vegan, I loved trying out new recipes, but I still miss stuffed shells. This recipe looks like it could be adapted to be vegan. I’m definitely going to try this.

    1. Sonja says:

      Ooo wonderful! How were you thinking of making it vegan? Let me know what you’re thinking and if it works!