These Pumpkin Chorizo Stuffed Shells are creamy, cheesy and just a little bit spicy. Stuffed with a blend of ricotta and queso fresco and topped with white AND yellow cheddar cheese. Serves 3.
This recipe has got a lot of great things going on – and its got a lot of cheese too! But the pumpkin chorizo sauce is able to balance out all the cheese, which makes this one of my new favorite fall pasta dishes.
Important note about this amazing sauce: You’ll use pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling. This is really important – we don’t want your pasta tasting like a pumpkin pie!
About chorizo: If you’ve never had chorizo before, it’s like a slightly spicy ground pork. This recipe used ground (Mexican) chorizo.
Before you get started, note that I made the sauce in an enameled cast iron skillet (from Staub). I was able to add the stuffed shells into the sauce and then place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking. If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, you will need to cook the sauce in a pan on the stove, and then transfer the sauce to an oven-safe baking dish (like a pie pan or a rectangular pan).
For added flavor and a little color, this recipe uses half a jar of grilled (or roasted) piquillo peppers. Piquillo peppers are slightly sweet, not spicy.
If you can’t find Piquillo peppers at the grocery store, no worries. Swap in grilled or roasted red peppers or you can omit entirely. The stuffed shells will still taste great without it.
For the pasta shells, you’ll want to boil them until they have softened, but are not mushy. I like to look at the cooking time on the package and then subtract 3 minutes. The shells will continue to cook and soften once they are placed in the sauce and then put in the oven for 15-20 minutes to finish cooking. This is also when all that delicious freshly grated cheese will melt over the top!
Ways to use leftover pumpkin puree:
This Pumpkin Chorizo Stuffed Shells recipe uses 4 ounces of pumpkin puree. The smallest can of pumpkin puree I can find at the grocery store is 15 ounces. You can freeze the extra pumpkin puree in a covered container, or pour into an ice cube tray and pop out a cube or two when you want to use later. Below are some ways that you can use the extra pumpkin puree:
1. Mix a spoonful into your favorite plain yogurt
2. Mix a spoonful into your oatmeal. Top with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for an extra crunch!
3. Make a smoothie using a handful of ice cubes, 8 ounces of coconut milk, 4 tablespoons pumpkin puree and 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup. Add pumpkin pie spice if you want more flavor
Pumpkin Chorizo Stuffed Shells
- 12 jumbo shells
- 6 oz ricotta
- 4 oz queso fresco
- ½ tbsp paprika
- ¼ tbsp kosher salt
- ¼ tbsp ground black pepper
- ½ lb ground chorizo (Mexican)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 4 oz pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- ½ cup half and half
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- ½ jar piquillo peppers roasted or grilled
- 3 oz mild yellow cheddar
- 3 oz sharp white cheddar
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh cilantro to garnish optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place a large pot filled two-thirds full of salted water (1 tablespoon salt) on the burner set to high heat.
- While the water is for the shells is heating, in a medium size bowl, mix the ricotta, queso fresco, salt, pepper and paprika. Set aside.
- Once you have mixed the filling, the pasta water should be boiling. Add shells to pot and cook for 3 minutes less than the package directions (this will probably be somewhere between 7-10 minutes).
Pumpkin Chorizo Sauce
- While the shells are boiling, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo, breaking up with a spatula or wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat on the skillet to medium, then add the minced garlic, pumpkin puree, half and half, unsalted butter and piquillo peppers. Stir until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low.
- Test the shells to see if they are cooked (you want then all dente (firm). Remove from heat and drain into a colander or pasta strainer. Let cool.
- Stir the pumpkin chorizo sauce. Next, grate the yellow cheddar and white cheddar cheese, and set aside. Stir the sauce again. If the sauce looks too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of half and half, or water. Turn off heat.
Assemble, Bake and Serve
- If you cooked the sauce in a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet, you can leave the sauce in the skillet. If not, pour the sauce into an oven-safe baking dish.
- To stuff the shells: With a spoon, gently spread the ricotta and queso fresco filling into each shell, placing each stuffed shell into the dish with the sauce.
- Sprinkle the shredded yellow and white cheddar cheese evenly over the shells. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and top is slightly brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro (optional). Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 3 days.