When I found out that I had celiac disease, I didn’t mind giving up breads and fried foods, and I celebrated an excuse to refuse beer on a basis less childish than “It’s just yucky!”
Overall, the more I subscribe to the celiac lifestyle, the better I feel physically, and so many good foods are naturally gluten-free that I was even able to enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner without detracting much from the diet.
However, the diet requires an avoidance of pasta, which I regrettably just can’t do. I’m not sorry, either. Life’s too short, and I like noodles too much.
Day to day I try to opt out of pasta, even deserting one of my favorite Starkville meals, the delicious Seafood Tortellini at The Veranda, for the equally tasty yet pasta-less Veranda Chicken. When grocery shopping, I buy the gluten-free variety when I can. But when I can’t, and I want pasta and nothing else will do, I just get the real thing and half-heartedly apologize to myself later.
I’m not going to waste a rare pasta-indulgence on shells ‘n cheese or worse, sodium-laden Ramen noodles. I saw a recipe on a friend’s blog for Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells and was intrigued. I knew my friend had excellent taste and wouldn’t recommend a dish she didn’t deem worthy, but I am an inexperienced pumpkin eater at best and had certainly never heard of pairing it with pasta.
Since the recipe looked so easy and unique, I decided to ignore the oddity of that food combination and give it a try. I was glad I did. The dish reminded me of manicotti with but with a slightly richer, darker taste in the stuffing. The pumpkin gave the meal a fun orange color, and the shells was so filling that I was able to stretch the leftovers over a few days, leaving me extra money to spend on my trip to the Music City Bowl at the end of the month.
But the biggest litmus test had yet to be passed — an hour later, when I was lying on my couch with the cold sweats and a killer stomach ache, did I regret my gluten-riddled meal choice?
No, I didn’t. It’s that good.
- Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 24 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 22 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 large egg white
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 jar (26 ounces) purchased tomato sauce
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup Romano and all remaining ingredients except tomato sauce. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread sauce in bottom of 13X9 inch pan. Fill each pasta shell with pumpkin-ricotta mixture. Arrange in pan. Cover pan with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle shells with remaining Romano. Bake 15 minutes longer.