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Pumpkin-stuffed shells with bread crumb topping

12-oz box jumbo shells

2 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted in dry skillet and chopped
1/8 teasp grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 clove minced garlic
1/3 cup soft bread crumbs, lightly toasted in dry skillet
1 teasp minced fresh sge or 1/2 teasp dry
Italian parsley for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, almonds, nutmeg, and
salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to
a boil. Select 18 unbroken, uncracked pasta shells. Add shells
one at a time to the past water, keeping it boiling. Stir carefully.
Cook for around 11 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure none
of the shells stick together or to the bottom.

When the pasta is done, instead of just draining it, put the whole
pot in the sink and let cold water run into it until all the water
is cool (all this fuss over the shells helps keep them intact).

Lightly oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with
about 2 TBS of the pumpkin mixture. Arrange them, open side up,
not touching, in the baking dish. (the open sides on mine all
wanted to be at a 45 degree angle, but that worked). Cover with
aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Either while the pasta is cooking or while the stuffed shells are
in the oven, toast the breadcrumbs and in a separate skillet, melt
the butter. Heat the butter until it just begins to brown, but
not burn. Stir in the garlic, and cook for just a minute or two.
Remove from the heat and combine it with the breadcrumbs and sage;
mix thoroughly.

When the shells are done cooking, arrange them by threes or fours
on individual small plates, and top each shell with a teaspoon of
the crumb mixture. Garnish with a parsley sprig. (because my
shells all came out at a 45 degree angle, I arranged four of them
on each plate to "face" each other, and put the parsley in the
middle. The crumb mixture had to be pretty carefully spooned onto
the top)

Note: I used pumpkin puree from some sugar pumpkins I had roasted.
I cut two smaller-than-basketball-sized pumpkins into halves and
scooped out the seeds and pith. I roasted them skin-side-down at
400 degrees in a covered 9x13 pan with an inch or so of water in
the bottom for about an hour. Then, I poured off the water and
baked them uncovered for a final 15 minutes. Once they'd cooled
enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh and pureed it in a blender.


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