I have been meaning to make pumpkin ravioli for some time now. I am mildly obsessed with the delicious vegan butternut squash ravioli by Rising Moon Organics, but it's awfully expensive and only available at a store nowhere near where I live. Alas, I still have not made the phantom ravioli of my dreams, but I did make a pumpkin-pasta dish which has a lot of potential. I found this Pumpkin Stuffed Shells recipe after wandering around online for a while and thought it sounded worth trying. The numerous steps required to make this dish make it a little more time consuming than something I would normally prepare, but it was Sunday and I had the time so I figured I'd go for it. The first time I try a new recipe, I try not to make too many changes and to simply trust the person that wrote it. I did that here, but I do think I will make a number of adjustments in the future. I'll make note of them as we go along.
The first step was to make the homemade vegetable marinara sauce. I was tempted just to use the Muir Glen Portobello Mushroom marinara sauce that I normally use for pasta, but I'm glad I put in the time to make this bizarre little recipe. I will be making this many more times in the future. I did things a little bit differently than the recipe called for, so I will include my own version below.
Vegetable Marinara Sauce:
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup baby carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
1/2 can water
2 Tbsp. grade B maple syrup
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch onion powder
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
Pinch black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute onion, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper about 10 minutes until tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the soy milk and simmer about 15 additional minutes. Let sauce cool to room temperature, then place in food processor. Process sauce until smooth, then stir in soy milk and season with salt and pepper.
This stuff is great. I'm sure I'm offending Italian purists by even calling it a marinara sauce, but I can tell you I'll be making it a lot. First of all, it's extremely easy, and second it's full of veggies which I guess makes it even healthier than regular pasta sauce. It has a unique tangy and slightly spicy flavor that I imagine would add a great kick to plain old spaghetti.
Next I made the pumpkin filling. This is where I think I will make the most adjustments in the future, but I'll post here what I did this time.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 15-oz. can pureed pumpkin
1 box firm silken tofu
2 Tbsp. of the vegetable marinara sauce
1 Tbsp. flour
Pinch black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. white miso
Heat olive oil in a small skillet and saute onion and garlic until tender. Add onion mixture to all remaining ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. *I found this filling to be a little too creamy. I think that in the future I might not blend it at all and rather just mix it with a spoon. I might also use firm tofu rather than silken. I've had great success making a lasagna with firm tofu, which when crumbled, has a texture very similar to ricotta cheese. I'd like to try that in this recipe to see how it works.*
Cook 16 large pasta shells in salted boiling water for 15 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Ladle marinara sauce into a large baking dish, fill each shell with pumpkin mixture and place each shell into the bed of sauce. Bake shells uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice 10-15 cremini mushrooms and saute them in a bit of olive oil. Set aside. Melt about 1/4 cup Earth Balance butter substitute. Add 3-4 Tbsp. minced fresh sage and simmer until sage is crispy but not browned. * I think this step is unnecessary. The final product was a bit too oily, so I don't see why I couldn't incorporate the sage right into the filling rather than making the sage butter. I'm going to try that next time.* When the shells are cooked, remove from oven and spoon mushrooms and sage butter over the top. Turn the oven up to broil and cook the shells for about 5-10 more minutes under the broiler until the bits of pasta begin to get brown and crispy.
This dish was incredibly delicious and creamy (especially considering the lack of dairy). It was tangy and spicy in a way I didn't expect and it's definitely a nice variety from the usual tofu-spinach stuffed shells I normally make. I did think it tasted a little oily, and J and I both felt a little heavy after eating it. Regardless, I will definitely make it again with a few key adjustments.
On another note, I thought I'd go out on a limb and make a few pieces of fried sage as a garnish. I must have gotten the idea from a cooking show somewhere along the line and I wanted to give it a try. I fried 6 leaves in about 1/4 inch of canola oil for about 30 seconds, until the leaves were darker in color but not browned. I drained them on a paper towel and lightly salted each one. These were amazing!! Please do this at home. the crispy, mild sage leaves literally melt in your mouth and make such an elegant garnish. I can't wait to make another dish with sage just to I can make more fried leaves! Yum.