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The Pumpkin Manicotti in Béchamel Sauce on a green serving plate with a side of garden salad.
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Pumpkin Manicotti in Béchamel Sauce

Pumpkin Manicotti in Béchamel Sauce is tender pasta filled with a robust pumpkin and ricotta filling flavored with fresh sage and thyme. A decadent brown butter béchamel sauce coats the pasta before baking.
Course dinner
Cuisine Italian, North American
Keyword béchamel, dinner, manicotti, pasta, pumpkin
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Calories 493kcal

Equipment

  • 18 or 24-inch piping bag

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) manicotti

For the Pumpkin Ricotta Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound (490 grams or 1 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups or 226 grams) whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces or 60 grams) parmesan cheese finely grated
  • 12 leaves sage chopped, about 1 tablespoon or 6 grams
  • 10 stems thyme leaves chopped, about 1 tablespoon or 3 grams
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk for a creamier filling, optional

For the Béchamel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic mashed to a paste, about 1 1/2 tablespoons or 25 grams)
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (620 milliliters) whole milk
  • 1/4 small yellow onion peeled, but core left in tact
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pumpkin spice blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) black pepper

Optional Garnishes

  • chopped sage leaves
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  • Preheat an oven to 350°F (177°C).
    Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or brush it with melted butter.

Boil the Manicotti Until Al Dente

  • Bring 1 gallon of water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat.
    Once the water boils, add 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of kosher salt to the water.
  • Add the manicotti to the pot once the water comes back to a boil.
    Boil the manicotti for 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
    Drain the manicotti through a colander in the sink and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process. Leave the manicotti in the colander to cool completely while you prepare the pumpkin ricotta filling.

Prepare the Pumpkin Ricotta Filling

  • In a large, 4-quart mixing bowl whisk the eggs until they run smooth and free of clumps.
    Add the pumpkin puree, ricotta, parmesan, sage, thyme, kosher salt, and pepper to the bowl with the eggs.
  • Use a large rubber spatula to stir the ingredients together until combined. 
    If you feel the pumpkin filling is too thick, thin it with 1/2 cup of whole milk.
    Cover the bowl with the pumpkin ricotta filling and refrigerate it until ready to use.

Make the Béchamel Sauce

  • Add the unsalted butter to a 2-quart sauce pan with sloped sides and bring it up to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.
    Heat the butter until it melts and begins to foam up. As the butter melts, stir it occasionally to prevent the fat solids from scorching.
  • When you see chestnut-colored flecks on the bottom of your pot of butter and smell that aroma, the butter is browned perfectly. 
    It takes 5 1/2 minutes to brown butter from start to finish over medium-low heat. 
  • Add the garlic paste to the pot with the brown butter and sauté it until it is fragrant, or for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly to avoid scorching the garlic. 
  • Whisk the all-purpose flour into the butter to create a roux and cook the roux for least 1 minute but no longer than 3 minutes.  
    Pour the milk into the pot with the roux in a steady stream. Be sure to constantly whisk the milk in to prevent clumps from forming.
  • Whisk the onion quarter, salt, pumpkin spice blend, and pepper into the milk in the pot.
    Continue to cook the béchamel sauce over medium-low heat, whisking frequently but slowly until it thickens to the consistency of syrup or glaze.
    Turn the stove off once the béchamel is thick and allow it to rest while you fill the manicotti.

Fill, Then Bake the Pumpkin Manicotti

  • Give the pumpkin ricotta filling another generous stir and use a rubber spatula or spoon to scoop it into an 18 to 24-inch disposable piping bag.
    Cut 1 inch off the piping bag's tip and pipe the filling into one half of a manicotti tube. Flip the tube over in your hand and fill the other half similarly.
  • Nestle the filled manicotti into the prepared baking dish and continue filling and arranging the manicotti this way. 
    Once the manicotti are all stuffed, pour the béchamel sauce over the entire batch. 
  • Cover the baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake the pumpkin manicotti 25 minutes. 
    After 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and remove the aluminum foil covering.
    Return the pan of pumpkin manicotti to the oven and continue baking it for 20 minutes.
  • Once done, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow the pumpkin manicotti to cool for 15 minutes before serving. 
    Serve this pumpkin manicotti with a garden salad and fresh garlic bread. 

Notes

Swaps and Substitutions:
  • You can replace manicotti with jumbo shells, garganelli (if you can find it), cannelloni, or lasagna. Avoid pasta like penne, rigatoni, or ziti because they're too small and cumbersome to fill. 
  • You can omit the garlic and/or pumpkin spice blend from your béchamel. 
  • Replace the pumpkin spice blend with 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground nutmeg, if you prefer. 
  • Browning butter for the béchamel sauce is another optional step. If you prefer not to, just melt the butter completely before sautéing the garlic. 
Tips and Techniques:
  • Take care when adding salt to boiling water because it often bubbles up and spills over the pot. 
  • If you prefer a thinner, creamier pumpkin filling, add up to 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of whole milk or cream to the filling to loosen it a bit. 
  • A french whisk is a narrower whisk that eliminates clumps in your roux with minimal effort on your part.
  • Béchamel sauces don't have much color, so you want to keep the roux blonde (or ivory) in color.
  • Piping bags are the best way to fill your pasta tubes, especially manicotti. You can use a spoon if you don't have a piping bag, but the likelihood of you tearing the shell is high. 
  • This final, uncovered, bake will give your béchamel sauce a bit of color. 
To Make Pumpkin Lasagna:
  1. Boil the lasagna noodles according the box instructions, drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. 
  2. In a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish, layer the recipe components, beginning with the soft lasagna noodles, half of the pumpkin filling, and half of the béchamel. 
  3. Repeat this layering until all the components are used up.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake as instructed above. 
Make-Ahead Instructions:
  • You can prepare the pumpkin filling for manicotti up to 2 days before you plan to stuff your pasta. Keep the pumpkin filling in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. 
  • Prepare the béchamel sauce up to 2 days before. It often thickens as it chills, but you can add more milk to thin it out to the proper consistency.
  • You can prep the pumpkin manicotti a day ahead and store it, covered, in the refrigerator. Be sure to allow your baking dish to warm up to room temperature before you put it into a hot oven, or it will shatter.
Storage Instructions:
  • Store leftover pumpkin manicotti in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To reheat pumpkin manicotti: remove the amount you want to serve and heat it for 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave or until it is warmed through. 
Freezer Instructions: 
    1. Allow the baked pumpkin manicotti to cool completely.
    2. Transfer the pasta to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months.
    3. Place the frozen manicotti in the fridge in its container to thaw completely before reheating as instructed above.

Nutrition

Calories: 493kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 154mg | Sodium: 915mg | Potassium: 550mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 12669IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 404mg | Iron: 3mg