I know. You’re sick of pumpkin recipes this year. Join the club. But, I wanted to throw you a pumpkin curveball with a recipe that uses pumpkin in a savory way instead of all the sweet stuff you’ve probably been seeing. That’s why these Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Bacon and Gouda need to be on your dinner table this week.
Nothing says fall to me like a big bubbling, cheesy baked pasta dish and this one has surprisingly few ingredients, but also really great flavors. The combo of slightly sweet pumpkin puree with crispy bacon and creamy gouda cheese is pretty hard to beat.
Stuff those shells, people. Bring pumpkin into the savory universe!
Pasta Options for this Recipe
I like to use shells for this pumpkin stuffed shells recipe. Specifically, I like to use the Jumbo Pasta Shells which are generally available in most supermarkets. If you use the large shells, you can’t really stuff them with as much and it’s very labor-intensive.
If you can’t find the jumbo shells, I would buy manicotti which you can also use to stuff with this savory pumpkin and cheese filling.
Ingredients you need for this recipe
Obviously, you will need the pasta, either shells or manicotti.
Pumpkin is the next important ingredient. The only note there is to make sure you get pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. That would be a very unfortunate (and much sweeter) mess-up.
I like to add crispy bacon to my shells as well, but mushrooms would work for a vegetarian option.
For the cheese, I go big with gouda which melts beautifully and works well with the other flavors. If you wanted to substitute that though, mozzarella cheese or ricotta cheese would work just fine.
Cooking the pumpkin filling
This filling comes together pretty quickly. If you are using bacon (recommended) then crisp up your bacon over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it and leave enough bacon grease to measure about two tablespoons. You can eyeball it.
If you aren’t using bacon, you can just start with a few tablespoons of olive oil and then move on to the onions and garlic.
Sautee the aromatics over medium heat in the fat for a few minutes until they soften and then stir in the pumpkin puree, half of the bacon, and half of the cheese. I like to add a pinch of salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika to the filling as well. You could add other herbs to the mix like fresh sage or ground nutmeg. Those flavors go really well with pumpkin.
Save half of the cheese to add the shells as a topping later!
Stuffing the Pasta Shells
The key to stuffing these pumpkin shells is to make sure you don’t overcook them. They are almost impossible to stuff if they are overcooked and soggy. Cook pasta shells in a large pot with salted water and then drain them and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking.
Then work with one shell at a time and stuff them with a big spoonful of the pumpkin mixture. Place shells in a baking dish as you stuff them. They should fit in a single layer. Don’t stack the shells or they won’t bake correctly.
You should be able to get about 20 shells out of the filling, maybe more. You should be able to fill a 9×13 baking dish with the shells. Then sprinkle them with bacon and the rest of the cheese.
Finishing the pumpkin stuffed shells
Bake these at 350 degrees F. for about 20-25 minutes until the center is hot and the cheese is bubbling and melted.
Garnish the shells with some chopped chives and you’re ready to eat!
These bacon pumpkin stuffed shells have some great flavors going on. If you’re a pumpkin fan, or a baked pasta fan, give them a shot!
These stuffed shells store and reheat really well. You can store them in the fridge for up to a week and then reheat them in a 350˚F oven covered with foil until warmed through, probably 20 minutes.
If you are a in pinch, you can pull out a few pumpkin stuffed shells and pop them in the microwave for a minute as a quick meal.
What to serve with pumpkin stuffed shells
These are a pretty rich main entree so I would recommend serving them with something like, like a salad. A fresh fig salad would be really great this time of year, with parmesan cheese crisps. Or my Kale & Chickpea Caesar is always a hit as a hearty salad side dish.
Bacon Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
- 12 oz. bacon, chopped
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease, or butter
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 lb. gouda cheese, divided
- 2 15 oz. cans pumpkin puree
- 1 lb. large shells, cooked al dente
- Salt and pepper
- Chives, garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop bacon and add it to a skillet over medium-low heat. Let cook until fat renders out and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon from skillet when it’s crispy. Drain off grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the skillet.
- Add chopped onion, garlic, and paprika to the skillet and cook until onions are soft and translucent.
- Stir in pureed pumpkin along with half of the crispy bacon and gouda cheese. Combine well and then remove from heat. Season the pumpkin mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook shells according to package in salted water until they are al dente. Be careful not to overcook the shells or they will be harder to stuff.
- Drain pasta and rinse the shells with cold water. Then work with one shell at a time and spoon in a big spoonful of pumpkin stuffing into each shell. Place the stuffed shell in a baking dish. Continue until you finish all the filling. You should get around 20 shells.
- Cover shells with the rest of the cheese and crispy bacon bits. Bake shells at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and shells are hot, about 20-25 minutes.
- Remove and garnish with chopped chives. Serve while warm!