Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
There is no such thing as too much butternut squash in our house and I just discovered another way to incorporate this seasonal super-veggie into your next weekly rotation. I have to say that pasta recipes are my favorite to develop and I am pretty jazzed about how this one turned out! It's savory, sweet and excellent cold weather comfort food! BONUS: you can make it ahead!
Ingredients (Serves 4-6):
1 box of large shell pasta
32 oz 1” diced butternut squash, divided
4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
4 oz pancetta, small diced
16 oz whole milk ricotta
1 ¼ cup parmesan, divided
3/4 cup basil, 1/4 inch strips
1 ½ cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, water)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 amaretti cookies, crumbled (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Fill a large pot with water for the shells and set to boil. Season the water generously with salt. Once boiling, cook the shells according to the box directions until just al dente, mixing the pasta occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Drain and rinse the pasta well, so they don’t stick to one another and set aside.
3. Toss the squash in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper and spread evenly across the sheet pan. Top only 1/3 of the butternut squash with pancetta as the other 2/3 butternut squash will be reserved for the sauce. Roast the squash for 15 minutes. Toss keeping the pancetta side separate from the other side and roast another 8-10 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.
4. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, ½ cup parmesan, and basil. Add the pancetta and squash side of the sheet pan to the ricotta mix (ie 1/3 portion from the sheet tray). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside.
5. Add the remaining butternut squash (without pancetta) to a blender with 1 1/2 cups of broth and pulse until smooth.
6. In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the blended butternut squash, nutmeg, heavy cream, and ½ cup parmesan and stir until well combined and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Add 1/3 of the butternut squash sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 casserole baking dish. Then assemble the shells by filling the shells to the top with the ricotta mixture and arranging them in rows. This should fill around 24 shells. Spoon the remaining butternut squash sauce over the shells. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan and the crumbled amaretti cookies on top.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce gets bubbly on the edges. Serve immediately.
*Make Ahead: Follow steps 1-7. Cover baking dish tightly with tin foil and refrigerate until ready to bake. When ready, preheat to 425 F and remove the casserole dish from the fridge to thaw while the oven preheats. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until warmed through.