I’ve always loved stuffed shells and these Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells are no exception. Delicious pumpkin mixed with creamy fontina, garlic and herbs then topped with a brown butter alfredo sauce…YES PLEASE!
Fall comfort food is in full swing over here. Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells is such a cozy dish. They are so EASY to make and pumpkin shells make the perfect HOLIDAY DISH! Everyone will be begging for this new pumpkin recipe!
Pumpkin stuffed shells are the perfect addition to your fall menu. I love eating everything pumpkin in the fall but can definitely over do it with the sweets so I like to incorporate some savory pumpkin dishes as well.
These Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells are vegetarian. There’s an option to add a splash of chicken base to the brown butter alfredo sauce but it’s totally optional and not needed.
Pumpkin Stuffed Shells are a dish the whole family can enjoy. My two year old ate these like they were going out of style and if you’re kids are anything like mine this is AMAZING.
It’s basically a Christmas miracle every time I cook something that my children like because they are SO picky! Not really sure how that ended up happening but here we are.
Can you make pumpkin stuffed shells ahead of time?
Yes, absolutely! Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells are a great meal because they’re so easy to make in general but you can make it even easier for yourself by making the shells ahead of time. This can be done in a couple different ways.
You can cook and stuff the shells then wrap them tightly and store them in the fridge for up to 2 days before cooking them. Simply take them out of the fridge, make the brown butter alfredo sauce, top the shells with the sauce then bake.
You can also cook, stuff and sauce the shells ahead of time. Then you just remove the pan from the fridge and bake them according to directions.
The third way you could make the shells ahead of time is to fully make and bake them. Then you can cool them down, wrap them tightly and store in the fridge for up to 3 days before reheating in the oven.
Can you freeze Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells?
Yes, you can! I recommend cooking the shells, stuffing them, saucing them and then freezing them. Wrap them tightly 2-3 times then freeze for up to 2 months. I also recommend freezing them in an aluminum pan.
They can be cooked straight from the freezer or you can thaw them first. Either way works fine. If you thaw them first then bake them unwrapped for the same amount of time as stated in the directions. If you’re cooking them from frozen add an additional 15 minutes onto the cooking time and cook them covered with foil.
What kind of meat can I add to Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells?
If you like to eat meat with your pasta there are a couple options that work well with these stuffed shells. Here are a couple of my recommendations:
- Spicy Sausage
- Crispy Prosciutto
What to serve with Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells
- Roasted Cauliflower
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts
- Roasted Broccoli
- Roasted Garlic Green Beans
Ingredients for Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells
- Pumpkin Puree – I use store bought canned pumpkin for this but if you make your own pumpkin puree that would work great as well!
- Fontina Cheese – Fontina is super creamy, melts well and so delicious. Perfect for pumpkin stuffed shells!
- Mozzarella Cheese – Great for melting and extra cheesiness!
- Fresh Garlic – I almost always use fresh garlic over garlic powder. You can never have enough garlic!
- Fresh Basil – Fresh herbs really add amazing flavor to any dish. I love adding fresh basil to any of my stuffed shells recipes.
- Kosher Salt – Salt really enhance the flavor of any dish you’re making, sweet or savory.
- Black Pepper – I prefer the course ground black pepper to get a bolder flavor.
- Crushed Red Pepper – I love spice in everything! Feel free to leave this out or lessen the amount if you’re not a big fan of spice.
- Jumbo Shells – You can find these in the pasta section at most local grocers. This is what you’re looking for.
- Olive Oil – Just a splash for the pasta water to help the shells not stick together.
- Unsalted Butter – I use unsalted so I can control the salt level by adding it myself.
- Fresh thyme – Fresh is really preferred here but if you’re in a pinch dried thyme would work just fine.
- All Purpose Flour – This is going to help thicken the alfredo sauce for the stuffed shells.
- Whole Milk – Alfredo is a milk based sauce.
- Heavy Cream – This will help add some body and creaminess to the alfredo sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese – You can’t have alfredo without Parmesan cheese. Parmesan compliments the pumpkin stuffed shells perfectly.
- Nutmeg – I always like to add nutmeg to my milk/cream based sauces. Nutmeg and pumpkin go hand in hand.
- Chicken Base – THIS IS COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. I like to put just a splash of chicken base into my alfredo sauce. Definitely not necessary though. This is the chicken base I’m obsessed with.
Tips for Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
- Use a food processor to shred the fontina and mozzarella. It’s much quicker
- Make sure to only cook the shells to “al dente” according to the package directions. If you over cook them they will be mush and fall apart
- Make the shells ahead! If you’re taking them to a holiday, party or just having them for dinner at home they can be prepared ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to cook them
- If you like meat in your stuffed shells then add a little spicy sausage, pancetta or prosciutto
- Let your roux cook for 2-3 minutes on low while stirring occasionally to cook out the flour taste
- Be careful not to brown your roux. It will give the sauce a nutty flavor
- Roux is a mixture of flour and fat, in this case butter and flour
How to brown butter
Brown butter is one of my all time favorite flavors. I use it a lot in baking but it can be used in savory dishes as well. It is very simple to make and it compliments the pumpkin shells well.
Start melting your butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium – low heat. Once the butter is fully melted let it continue to cook over low- medium heat. The butter will pop and crackle while cooking, this is normal just give it a stir every once in awhile.
You will start to see the butter browning a little at a time. Make sure to stir it around and stir up all the brown bits from the bottom. Basically once your butter stops crackling then it’s ready.
The butter will be a nice golden brown color. At this point you can turn the heat to low, add the garlic then continue on making the brown butter alfredo sauce.
If you make my Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells please leave me a rating and/or a review!
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Pumpkin and Cheese Stuffed Shells
- food processor
- stove top
- 20 pieces jumbo shells
- 4 quarts water
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp olive oil
Brown Butter Alfredo Sauce
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 14 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2.5 cups whole milk
- 7 oz parmesan cheese shredded
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1/16 tsp nutmeg
- 1 splash chicken base OPTIONAL
Pumpkin and Cheese Filling
- 15 oz pumpkin puree
- 5 oz fontina shredded
- ½ cup mozzarella shredded
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup basil chiffonade
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
Boil the Shells
- Fill a pot with water, salt and oil then bring it to a boil. Add the shells and cook according to package directions
- Drain the shells and rinse under cold water. Set aside
Making the Brown Butter Alfredo Sauce
- Brown the butter in a sauce pot. As soon as the butter is brown add the garlic and stir around for 15 seconds
- Add the flour and whisk well. Let the flour cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat
- Add the cream and whisk until there are no lumps. Add the milk, whisking until smooth
- Stir in the parmesan cheese, salt and nutmeg. Add the chicken base if you are using it
- Whisk the sauce until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat and set aside
Mix the Pumpkin and Cheese Filling
- Add all filling ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl and mix until well combined
Filling and Baking the Shells
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a baking dish with non stick cooking spray
- Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish
- Fill each shell with approximately 1.5 tbsp pumpkin cheese filling and place in the dish open side up
- Once all shells are filled pour the sauce over the top of all the shells. Use a spoon to spread sauce out trying to cover the tops of all the shells
- Bake for 30 minutes until shells are bubbly. Serve hot and enjoy!