It has been cold and rainy for almost a week here which in 2020 time translates into 4 weeks and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just going to be gross and rainy forever. But the silver lining (this is where my enneagram 7 comes through strong) is cozy comfort food!
Pasta might be my love language, which cheese being a close 2nd place. There’s just very little better than a pasta dish when it’s cold outside! Except maybe smashing the patriarchy. But that’s a different type of blog post.
I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was such a fan girl for Butternut Squash. I find myself using it in a ton of recipes during the fall & winter months. It can be sweet – it can be savory – it can be anything you want it to be. And it’s the star of this recipe! This is also a vegetarian dish, which I love. When I’m meal planning, I try to incorporate as many different styles of food/cooking so that I have variety and don’t get bored. I always try to do 2-3 vegetarian meals a week and they usually end up becoming my favorite meals. However – if you have a lot of meat eaters in your house, some hot Italian sausage would be great in this.
For this recipe, I used frozen butternut squash. I find that its easier, quicker, and less mess which isn’t that what we all need right now? Another quick substitute in this dish would be to use your favorite jarred Alfredo sauce. I typically always have the ingredients on hand to just make mine but if you’re looking for a shortcut – you’re welcome!
I didn’t remember to take pictures of this while I was making it so we’re just going to jump into the ingredients and instructions for this one but I have faith in all of you that you will be able to make this without my bad photos helping you.
A quick aside here – for those who know me you can ignore this but if you don’t – I have a very dry sense of humor so I don’t really know how that translates into blog posts. Hopefully no one is offended, that’s not my intention and everything I say is meant to be in good fun. (except the smashing the patriarchy part – that’s legit) I was asked a week or so ago what I was like as a child, followed with “like what did you watch as a kid?” and my response was Seinfeld…and Frasier. So take from that what you will, now back to the food.
Butternut Squash & Sage Stuffed Shells
- 3 10z bags of frozen acorn squash
- Giant Pasta Shells (could sub Manicotti) (your number of shells can vary on how many you want to feed/have leftovers for. I serve 2 shells per person typically)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 tbsp fresh sage, plus more for topping, rough chop
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 4 cups spinach
- salt/pepper, to taste
- red pepper flake, to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Italian cheese blend, for topping
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup Italian Breadcrumbs (or plain or Panko – choose your own adventure) for topping
- Baking dish 9×13 or equivalent
Preheat oven to 375. Steam the frozen butternut squash according to package instructions, then place in mixing bowl. Cook the giant shells according to package instructions, minus a few minutes. Drain, drizzle with a little olive oil so they won’t stick together and set aside. You want them to be a little al dente because they will finish cooking in the oven. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and diced onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add in your fresh spinach to cook down. I do mine in batches so my pan isn’t overflowing. Once the spinach is wilted, add the garlic and red pepper flake (if using) and stir until the garlic becomes fragrant. Then add the heavy cream (note – if you want to use jarred Alfredo sauce, just do that instead of the heavy cream & parmesan) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add in your Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of your butternut squash mixture and stir until combined. Your sauce should have just the slightest orange color from the squash. With your remaining butternut squash, add the Italian seasoning and ricotta cheese and mix. Depending on how you like your texture for this part you can just stir to combine for a more rustic feel or use a stand mixer/hand mixer if you want a smoother filling. Stir in the fresh sage then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour your butternut squash/Alfredo-esque filling into the bottom of your baking dish. Just enough to cover the bottom, you can add more later if you want to! Now, take your squash filling and stuff the shells. I overstuff mine but you do you. Place them in your baking dish with a little bit of space between each one. No specific measurement you just don’t want them crowded in your dish. If you have extra sauce you want to add you can drizzle on top or use to fill in space between your shells. Top with Italian cheese blend and breadcrumbs and place in oven. Bake under cheese/breadcrumbs are a nice golden brown color – start checking around 12-15 minutes. Once you pull from the oven, top with remaining chopped sage and serve!