Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Personally, I firmly believe that the butternut squash/pasta combo is a match made in heaven.

Once, when I attended a holiday dinner for my husband’s job, the caterers served a butternut squash ravioli that was, honest to goodness, the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. Ever.

My efforts to recreate it later (complete with homemade pasta and all) didn’t quite live up to the reality of that precious evening. As in, my ravioli exploded everywhere while boiling and I ended up with butternut-ravioli-mush, which wasn’t exactly what I was after, if you know what I mean.

So, when I spied this butternut squash stuffed shell recipe on Pinterest, I was pretty hopeful it would redeem my failed butternut-pasta attempt from years gone by. And it did.

These shells are stuffed with a combination of roasted butternut squash, creamy ricotta, a touch of lemon (so essential to brighten up the dish) and other fantastic ingredients.

Drizzled with the aforementioned butter-sage concoction and topped with crispy sage leaves, these shells are utterly divine and very elegant, if you want to serve them to company.

I, for one, did not serve them to company, unless you count my four rugrats and their dad as “company.”

And for the record, not one of them commented on the elegance of the shells while they shoveled them down. Sigh. I savored each and every lovely bite on behalf of them all. P.S. If you aren’t crazy about drizzling a stick of butter (browned to other-worldly deliciousness and infused with fresh sage), well, shame on you and your calorie-conscious ways.

But if you still refuse, I’ve also served these shells with our favorite simple garlic alfredo sauce and…well…they are magnificent that way, too.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounce package jumbo pasta shells (about 20-24 shells total)
  • 2 cups of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh spinach (chop after measuring)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 8-10 fresh sage leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel the butternut squash and chop the flesh into cubes. Toss the cubed squash in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the squash is fork tender. Scrape the warm squash into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Let it cool to warm room temperature before using in the recipe (this step can be done 2-3 days in advance and the cooked, mashed squash can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator). Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package directions and drain. In a medium bowl, combine the squash, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, garlic, spinach, egg, salt and pepper and fresh lemon zest. Stir well. Stuff the cooked pasta shells with the squash/ricotta mixture and place them in a lightly greased 9X13-inch baking dish (depending on how full you fill the shells, you may not use all of them). Bake the shells for 18-20 minutes, until they are hot all the way through.
  3. While the shells are making, prepare the brown butter sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat until the butter is golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Watch carefully as the butter can go from browned to burned in a short time. Add the sage leaves and cook until the leaves are slightly crisp (the butter should be hot and bubbly when adding the leaves so that the sage cooks quickly). Remove the pan from the heat and squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon.
  4. Drizzle the sauce over the cooked shells and top with additional grated Parmesan, if desired. Serve the shells with 1-2 crisp sage leaves on top.

Notes:

These stuffed shells are rich and delicious to eat. If you want an alternative to the brown butter sage sauce (which is crazy delicious), I’ve also made these and served them with this quick and simple garlic alfredo sauce. Either way is totally divine.

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Recipe Source: adapted from Proud Italian Cook