Pumpkin Patch Stuffed Shells

I'll be honest...I was skeptical about this recipe. I love pumpkin...but pumpkin pasta sauce? Well, these shells were absolutely DELICOUS! And, not to mention, my husband loved them, too! Plus, they are packed with good-for-you ingredients like spinach and pumpkin. A yummy and festive Halloween dinner that you MUST try. Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray.

Salt and pepper
20 jumbo pasta shells
1 lb. baby spinach
4 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 1/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
Parsley leaves

Add 2 tsp. salt, a splash of EVOO and 20 jumbo pasta shells to a large pot of boiling water. Cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse until cool. Cover with damp paper towels.

 Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in the same pot. Add half of 1 lb. baby spinach. Let wilt before adding the rest; stir to wilt. Rinse with cold water; squeeze to get the spinach as dry as possible. Place the spinach on a cutting board and chop.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter. Add 1 large onion, chopped; add 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

Add 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef; cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped spinach until well mixed. Stir in 1/3 cup shredded cheddar. Let cool.

Heat 2 cups milk in a microwave. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour; cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1/2 cup hot milk, then the rest. When it boils, whisk 1 minute.

Remove from the heat; season with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Whisk in 3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree. Stir in 1 cup shredded cheddar.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Smear the bottom with 1/2 cup of the pumpkin sauce. Hold a pasta shell in one hand and stuff with a large spoonful of the beef-spinach mixture (about a 1-inch ball). Arrange the stuffed shells in the prepared pan with the openings face-down.

Spoon more sauce on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling hot, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before decorating with parsley leaves.


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