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

What To ServeFor a meat factor, this Mediterranean Pork or Broiled Parmesan and Lemon Chicken
Fresh vegetables with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Buttery Peas with Thyme

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter

Yield: Serves 6

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter

Note: 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.


  • 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


  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.

Recipe Source: adapted from Proud Italian Cook

70 Responses to Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter

  1. Lauren Billings says:

    Made these last night. So delicious! Great flavor! I accidentally put half the lemon juice in the ricotta mix and half in the sauce, but it turned out perfect. Also I put foil over them when baking which kept the shells softer. I will definitely be making them again! Everyone loved them. Thank you for sharing the recipe Mel!

  2. michele says:

    I made this and accidentally put the lemon juice in the ricotta mix. Not too overpowering. I think the instructions should say to cover the pan with foil. That would help with the crunchy shells. great flavor!

  3. Emily says:

    It was delicious! But for me, the lemon was WAY too overpowering. Next time I’ll probably quarter it. Everything else was great.

  4. Tamar says:

    I have actually made this and it was yummy. TY for sharing.

  5. Mikala says:

    The lemon taste of this dish was VERY overpowering 🙁 I will try to make this again but with considerably less zest. I knew it sounded like a lot, I should have trusted my instinct!

  6. Cari says:

    I made these for my daughters bridal shower just yesterday. Everyone loved them. This recipe will be a keeper.

  7. Nandini says:

    Mel, I tried this today and loved it! The only problem I had with it was that the pasta shells became a bit too dry and crusty, especially on the edges. Any advice on how to avoid it? Should I maybe cook them a bit lesser when I boil them, so when they go back to the oven and out, they’re fully done? Not sure what I did wrong, but would appreciate any tips around this. Thanks – hope to try your other recipes too soon! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Nandini – my shells get a little like that, too. You could try making an alfredo sauce or another sauce to go over the top if you want the shells soft on the edges.

  8. Aubrey says:

    Does anyone know how many calories are in this dish?

  9. Marianne says:

    I love to assembly meals in the morning, and then throw them in the oven closer to dinner time. Do you think that would work with this recipe?

  10. Ashlee says:

    I kind of feel like a need a how-to peel and cut butternut squash tutorial. I’ve dulled one potato peeler… Is there a trick or is it just that hard of skin? Excited for dinner either way!

  11. heather says:

    Mel, do you think you could sub in canned pumpkin for the squash? Or would it be too watery?

  12. Naomie says:

    The mashed squash gets mixed in with the other ingredients ? recipe doesn’t say
    or do you stuff shells with squash first then top with ricotta mixture ?

  13. Gina says:

    Has anyone found a good substitute for the ricotta? I am not a fan of it. Also, I was wondering how noticeable the ricotta is in the recipe. If it blends in and isn’t very pronounced, I would still use it. I do like to try recipes as written the first time and then tweak it to my tastes, if necessary.
    About the substitution for ricotta, how about cottage cheese put in the blender to smooth it out? Any suggestions will be most appreciated.

  14. tj says:

    Tried this recipe tonight. The flavor was on point with the filling! I was disappointed in the shells. They were chewy. I almost think a manicotti shell would work better. I enjoyed the lemon butter sage sauce but it seemed to be too little too late with the shells like they came out. Maybe the alfredo sauce covering it to bake would have been more conducive. But again, the flavor of the mix makes it worth it.

  15. Carole says:

    There were just “OK”. The brown butter sage sauce added a ton of flavor. I covered and cooked as some suggested, but the shells were a bit rubbery. I was expecting a WOW on these. They weren’t bad, just not what I was expecting. Maybe i will try the garlic alfredo next time.

  16. Laura says:

    i love your site and want to make everything I read about! But I want to change your mind about butter. It really is healthy for you! Check out this article: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2011/04/good-fats-bad-fats-and-why-i-eat-plenty-of-butter.html

    • Mel says:

      Hey Laura – I actually agree with you; I’ve come around to replacing many of the more processed oils with butter and coconut oil. Thanks for the link!

  17. Kali says:

    I made these tonight and they are incredible! I’m already craving them again, they are that good. The sage browned butter is essential. In a moment of anti-clarity, I added the lemon juice to the ricotta/butternut squash stuffing, but I decided to use the juice of one half of a lemon in the butter (I didn’t want to over-lemon it). They still turned out wonderfully 🙂 I will definitely be making these again this winter. (That is if I’m not busy making every other recipe on this blog).
    I reckon the stuffing recipe would be fantastic inside portobello mushrooms, or whatever stuffable mushroom you prefer 🙂
    I love love love this blog. LOVE IT.

  18. Amy says:

    I promise that if you want to make your own ravioli and stuff them with this mixture, it can be done. Homemade pasta dough in a food processor is ridiculously easy. To stop the ravioli from exploding, don’t roll it thinner than a 5 or 6 on your pasta machine. Easy. Then, to make the process extra-fun, consider getting a Norpro Ravioli Maker with Press (it’s on Amazon). It’s cheap and super slick! Homemade ravioli may seem like a lot of work. It definitely is not a “whip this up on a weeknight” kind of meal. But it’s fun to make, none of the steps in and of themselves are difficult, and your kids will probably love helping you. Also, I freeze my homemade ravioli, uncooked, and give a few bags to my parents at Christmas. They love fancy food but my mom is so over cooking. Anyway, there are a few hints, Mel, if you want to try homemade ravioli again. It’s sooo worth the effort, I promise.

  19. Kate says:

    I just wanted to let you know that this is my absolute favorite dinner recipe. My sister is coming home this weekend and I promised to make her this dish! I’ve made it twice before and each time it is just as perfect and delicious. I’m excited for cooking it up this weekend since I found a butternut squash (in July!) and purchased fresh sage (I usually use ground sage which makes the sauce a little gritty, but still good)
    Thank you for such a great recipe!

  20. Jean says:

    Have made these several time and it was always a big hit! My friends fight over the left overs! I’m just not a big fan of the lemon, so I leave that out! Making them again tomorrow!

  21. […] This Butternut Squash Stuffed Shell recipe is more than we could have ever hope for. Rich and delicious, it’s the perfect comfort food for a dreary day.  Our friend at Mel’s Kitchen has a great recipe for you to try here […]

  22. Bianca says:

    Loved this recipe but my whole family agreed on one thing; The sage should have been left out.

  23. Kerri says:

    I was asked to make squash for a Christmas potluck, and thought, “How lame…I bet Mel has a way to make it interesting!”- and I was right, you never disappoint.
    I’m sure this is a silly question, but just to be clear, you mix in the mashed squash with the ricotta mixture before stuffing the pasta, right?
    Can’t wait to make this! 🙂

  24. Laine says:

    For those of you looking to freeze, how about making it as a lasagna? Could put beschamel flavored with sage in between layers, par-bake, freeze and then bake from frozen. You could add mozzarella on top, too! 🙂

  25. Amanda c says:

    Oh my gosh. I feel like we have eaten the same ravioli. I can’t wait to make this and see how it compares.

  26. Michelle B. says:

    Another question — do you remove the sage leaves from the butter sauce before drizzling over the shells? (The 1 -2 crisp leaves you serve them with – is that from the butter sauce, then?)

  27. Michelle B. says:

    I’m with “rose” — how much of the mashed squash do you add in? (I assume you add it to the ricotta cheese mixture).
    Excited to try this tonight, hopefully!

    • Mel says:

      Michelle – I don’t have an exact measurement for the squash and it’s been a while since I’ve made these, but I’d guess somewhere around 2-3 cups (sorry, Rose – I never saw your question!). And yes, the garnished sage leaves are from the browned butter sauce.

  28. […] lastly, “Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter” from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – she’s another favorite – I’ve probably made more of her […]

  29. rose says:

    Is there a measurement on how much butternut squash I should use? I had so much mashed squash, I removed some before adding in the other ingredients like ricotta, spinach, egg

  30. queenann says:

    Made this and loved it. Yes, next time I will cover with foil.

    The sage! So good.

  31. Adrienne says:

    Absolutely delish! I took the other posters advice and covered the shells with foil while I baked them. I cooled the squash on a sheet tray in the fridge in order to save time. LOVED the brown butter sauce. Thanks for the great recipe!

  32. Keisha says:

    I can’t explain how incredible this recipe is. I roasted the squash in 2 halfs then I scrapped it out. The brown butter sauce with sage knocked my socks. I also stuffed mine with ground Italian sausage. I also took the tip of covering my pan to keep from ruining the shells. The outcome is sooo worth the effort.

  33. Tracey says:

    As soon as you posted this, I knew I wanted to make it, as I love butternut squash! I just made these for dinner tonight, and was a little disappointed to be honest. They tasted much to “lemony” for our taste. I think I would make them again, and omit the lemon zest in the filling. For me, it overpowered the taste of the butternut squash.

  34. Kelly says:

    How do you think adorn squash would work? I have one on hand and trying to figure out what to do with it. If not, any ideas?
    Thank you:)

  35. A says:

    I made these for my boyfriend the other night, and now he loves me more….or so he says. 🙂 Irregardless, I LOVED them and will be making the often anytime I want to impress someone. Thanks for another wonderful recipe, Mel.

  36. [email protected] Pink Lemoande says:

    I made these last night for dinner and they were delicious! Even my four year old liked them. Following the suggestions I covered mine while baking to keep the shells from drying out. I halved the brown butter sauce and that was a mistake. It was delicious. Next time I’ll make the whole recipe. I had more shells than I could fit in my 9×13 pan so I put some in another pan and am freezing them for another day. Thanks so much for the great recipe. It was fun to try something new.

  37. Tammy says:

    I am with Andrea…the shells were super tough and chewy after baking them, but I also did them on a jelly roll pan instead of a 9×13 so they weren’t close together or touching. Next time I will probably put them in a 9×13 and also cover them. And I will roast my butternut squash in halves to save the time and effort of peeling and chopping. But the flavor was wonderful. Thanks Mel.

  38. Jennifer G. says:

    Just a follow up-I wanted to make these for my non-meat eating mother when she came to visit last week. I ran out of time to make them ahead an had her make them. She didn’t read the recipe properly and put the butter and sage in the FILLING! I was disappointed she mixed up the recipe since we were hungry and had no sauce for the top. We ate them anyway and the flavor was still delicious and I will be making them again the proper way. I’ll probably buy the pre-cut/peeled butternut at Costco next time to save some work though.

  39. Bonnie says:

    We just had this for dinner and it was a hit!! My children 6, 5, 3, and 19 months all ate a good portion. I made both the butter sage sauce and the alfredo sauce. My family liked the alfredo sauce a bit better but both were good. Fresh green beans on the side with rolls and dinner is done. Thanks so much for all the wonderful recipes.

  40. Andrea says:

    I made this tonite for dinner. It was divine!! My hubby and I loved it. So yummy and buttery. My only complaint is the shells got pretty hard in the oven. I was concerned about this as there was no sauce to pour over them til after they baked. Maybe covering it would help? I may try the garlic alfredo sauce next time. I also need a better veggie peeler as peeling the butternut squash was a real pain!!! My 12 yr old son opted out and had a pb & j after one taste. My 15 yr old daughter ate it fine but did complain about the toughness of the shells. Thank you!!!

  41. Costco has pre-peeled, pre-cut butternut squash in their refrigerated produce section right now. This might make it easier to throw together! Just thought people might like knowing about it, since I just discovered it and love it!! Can’t wait to try the recipe!

  42. Cammee says:

    Ok seriously, I need to go wipe the drool off my face. I have a feeling these could be my new favorite thing.

  43. Terri says:

    This looks fantastic! And since I have all the ingredients on hand, except for the fresh sage, I’ll be making it this week! I can’t wait !

  44. Kimberly Christiansen says:

    This looked so yummy I decide to make it for dinner tonight! The squash is roasting in the oven as we speak and it smells sooo good. Perfect for a cold windy day. 🙂 Thanks!!

  45. Laurie Nihiser says:

    Thanks, Mel – that’s what I’m going to do. I’m thinking since you can buy shells/manicotti that are already stuffed and frozen, this should work. I’ll let you know after I do it! Just got back from the store and ready to roll!

  46. Mel says:

    Laurie and Jennifer – for a make-ahead option, yes, I definitely think you could stuff the shells in advance and refrigerate for up to 12 hours or so. As for freezing, Laurie, I *think* that would work but since I haven’t actually frozen them, I can’t be 100% sure. I would probably defrost in the fridge overnight and then bake.

  47. I love stuffed shells! This looks like a delicious version of them…

  48. Jennifer G. says:

    I want to make this for dinner when my non meat eating mom arrives for the holidays. Do you think it would hold well if I stuffed the shells in advance and then refrigerated in the morning to bake later that evening? How much extra time should I bake them?

  49. Hananananah says:

    Ah!! This is brilliant. I loooove butternut squash ravioli…the shell solution is so perfect, I can’t believe we haven’t all thought of it. Even better, K and I preserved this fall’s squash harvest by baking, mashing, and freezing in vacuum seal bags…I’m halfway there already!

  50. Laurie Nihiser says:

    These sound crazy delicious. Coming from an Italian family, we do a meatless Christmas Eve with fish/seafood and always a pasta dish. Thinking of adding this to this year’s buffet but I’d love to make this week and freeze. Do you think that would work? And would you defrost to thaw and then bake or bake right from frozen?

  51. StephenC says:

    Ravioli that come apart in the boiling water are a problem. They take a very careful construction technique. You are right on the money about the idea of squash, pasta and sage being a marriage made in heaven.

  52. Karen says:

    This looks so yummy! Because I run a household of carnivores, I will add crumbled & cooked Italian sausage to the mixture and see how it tastes. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for sharing – I adore your website and recipe ideas.

  53. Kim in MD says:

    I have always wanted to try the butternut squash/pasta combo, but for some reason never have. This sounds so delicious, and it’s going on my “must try” recipe list!

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