I’m already prepared to combat the cliché white girl jokes and comments that will come from this post. In fact, my fiancé Pat made a few already as he monitored my progress in the kitchen.
Do I love fall? Yes. It’s my favorite.
Do I love boots, scarves, and all things layered and comfy? Yes. Who doesn’t?
Do I love pumpkin everything? Pretty much.
Do I love pumpkin in my coffee? No, thank you. I do not.
The only time my coffee associates with pumpkin is if I’m enjoying it with a pumpkin baked good. Take this morning for example. Knowing I was going to make this recipe and knowing it would only use a small portion of the can of pumpkin, I decided to waste not and made these delicious Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes with the rest of it. The sweet, cinnamon, pumpkin tastiness paired perfectly with my cup of black coffee. So make all the cliché white girl jokes you want, but please excuse me from the PSL addicts group.
One of my favorite things about researching and trying new recipes is finding recipes that are conceptually sound. As far as recipe ratings go, I prefer conceptually sound to amazing, add-it-to-the-regular-rotation, new favorite recipes. The reason I love these types so much is that it allows me to be creative and customize. Conceptually sound recipes are idea doors, ready to be opened and the room beyond explored. My rule, 95% of the time, is to make the recipe as I find it before altering anything. When I stumbled upon this Vegan Pumpkin Stuffed Shells recipe, I was intrigued, to say the least. As I inspected the recipe however, I was a little hesitant. My brain and instincts wanted to go a different route. So I sat on it for a bit and then, as I do on rare occasions, I decided to use the idea and put my own spin on it.
As I’ve changed my diet, the one thing I have tried to make vegan and so far failed miserably at is cheesecake. I don’t know how all those bloggers get soaked cashews to blend down to the consistency of cream cheese. I have tried, with both a food processor and a Ninja blender, but to no avail. It’s too grainy. Tofu is a better consistency match, but I’m struggling with flavor. I haven’t given up though, and I hope to one day post a recipe that stands up to Pat’s high standards. One thing I did make note of is that soaked and blended cashews do have a very similar texture to ricotta cheese. So I tucked that bit of info away and saved it for just such an occasion as this.
I was very excited to pair this pesto seasoned pumpkin filling with an old favorite: Coconut Tomato Basil soup. A dear friend of mine had a similar soup at a little bistro in Boise and insisted we replicate it. It took us many tries, but we finally stumbled upon a simple recipe that’s pretty close. It’s become a staple in my house and I always have the ingredients in my pantry. I use this ‘soup’ as a pasta topping all the time. Another friend of mine recently asked if I’d ever added vodka to the sauce. I have not, but thanks for the idea! This recipe has 3 ingredients and uses my favorite kitchen tool: an immersion blender. This tool came to me a few years ago and it definitely makes the top of my list of must-have kitchen gadgets. Tell me what your must-haves are in the comments below!
P.S. I’ve had the most difficult time giving up parmesan cheese. I confess that I sometimes make exceptions and use a little to top various recipes. Forgive me, I know it’s a sin.
P.P.S. Pardon the terrible photography. I have very little skill at photography and no training whatsoever. If the light is just so, luck kicks in. But alas, my house has horrible lighting and it was a rather cloudy day. I will be working to develop some skill for blogging purposes.
Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Coconut Tomato Basil Sauce
1 box jumbo shells, cooked al dente
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
½ – ¾ cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
3-4 heaping Tbsp pesto (homemade or store bought)
Salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the salt)
A drizzle of olive oil
Coconut Tomato Basil sauce/soup:
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (I use the kind seasoned with oregano and basil)
1 13.5oz can coconut milk (whole fat or light, your choice)
½ cup coconut flakes
Parmesan cheese garnish (optional)
- Drain the soaked cashews and put them in a food processor. Blend them down for a few seconds, then add all other filling ingredients. Blend until consistency is that of ricotta cheese and ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and pasta, cooking to al dente per instructions.
- Meanwhile, add sauce/soup ingredients to a medium sauce pot and warm on medium heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce as it warms.
- When pasta is done, drain it and let cool for a few minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Lightly grease an 11 x 13 dish with olive oil. Using a spoon, fill each shell with a spoonful of the pumpkin mixture and place stuffed shells in the dish. Cover with coconut tomato sauce. *if you have leftover shells, save a little of the sauce to pair with them separately.
- Top with Parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly.
- Serve and enjoy!