Summer is, by far, the undisputed champion of the seasons. The transition into colder weather has always been a tough one for me, but all the fresh produce and flavors fall has to offer definitely helps ease the pain of having to say goodbye to t-shirts and sandals. This is an excellent dish to make alongside the conversion to autumn. It embraces everything that is fall in our home – fresh, sweet apples, warm, spiced pumpkin and savory venison.
My husband was fortunate enough to shoot two does last fall giving us the opportunity to craft some really great meals throughout the year. With bow season nearing, now is the time to use up what we have left to make room in our freezer for this year’s deer. Ground beef or turkey would work as a substitute, but this is a great recipe to try if you have venison. The sweetness of the apples and the creamy pumpkin Alfredo pairs so well with the deer meat.
Event though this meal is made up of several components – the meat, the sauce, and the shells – it comes together pretty fast. Because I didn’t want the meat to get dried out in the oven (which can happen easily with venison), I left out the egg binder so once the shells are stuffed and the sauce is poured over the top, the dish spends just 10 minutes in the oven. This will ensure the extra cheese that gets sprinkled on top has time to melt and everything gets warmed through perfectly.
The Alfredo is based on a tortellini recipe at Food Network.
Venison Apple Stuffed Shells with Pumpkin Alfredo
For the Shells:
- 16-20 Pasta Shells
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 lb Venison
- 2 Gala Apples
- 1 Med White Onion
- 2 Cups Fresh Spinach
- Ground Sage
- 3/4 Cup Parmesan
For the Sauce:
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Cup Pureed Pumpkin
- Ground Cloves
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
Cook the shells according to the package directions. Drain and cover with 1 tablespoon olive oil to keep shells from sticking to each other.
Preheat the oven to 375. Place a large pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Peel and chop apples and onions and add to pan. Cook until translucent and add venison. When the venison is browned, add the spinach and let wilt down. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sage to taste. Move to a separate bowl and add 1/2 cup Parmesan, saving 1/4 of the cheese for the top.
For the Alfredo, melt the butter in a medium pan. Add heavy cream and pumpkin and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and a dash of nutmeg and cloves and 1/2 cup Parmesan and remove from heat.
Cover the bottom of a baking pan with some of the Alfredo (I used a pie pan, but you could use a 9×13 pan, too). Begin stuffing the shells and arranging on the pan. Once all the shells are stuffed, pour the rest of the Alfredo over the top and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.