These butternut squash stuffed shells are a creamy and comforting vegetarian meal. This easy pasta recipe has the most delicious fall flavors of roasted butternut squash, creamy ricotta cheese, and sage.
Butternut Squash vs Pumpkin
In an epic showdown of fall recipes, I feel like butternut squash and pumpkin often go head to head. Both are a winter squash, but I often notice that butternut squash is easier to locate all year long. Not to mention, there currently is a rumored canned pumpkin shortage this year, which reports have said aren't true. Producers say that it's simply because more people are at home baking fall recipes earlier this year, and therefore canned pumpkin is more difficult to find right now.
Butternut squash also has a bit more sweetness to it than pumpkin, which people tend to prefer. But overall, both have a similar buttery, earthy flavor that you can substitute one for the other with. For this stuffed shells recipe, I wanted to use butternut squash since it pairs well with the sage and creamy cheeses, but it was also easy to find.
Canned or Fresh Butternut Squash
These butternut squash stuffed shells would be amazing with fresh roasted and blended squash, but that also takes a significant amount of time. Knowing my audience, any good shortcuts I can take to make the recipe easier and less time-consuming I will do. This is why I chose canned butternut squash.
If you want to take the long route, roasting butternut squash until soft creates a lovely, deeper flavor. It's more caramelized and rich compared to canned. I do think for this recipe, it might not be worth the extra effort just because there are other flavors going on with the cheese and sage.
Instant Pot Instructions
If you can't find canned butternut squash, another option is to use an instant pot for quick cooking. Simply peel and de-seed, and then cut into 1 inch cubes.
Place in the instant pot with 1 cup of water and then set to 10 minutes. I let mine have a natural release by leaving it for another 10-20 minutes then venting whatever might be left. You can mash with a potato masher, fork, or an immersion blender.
Stuffed Shell Ingredients
For the pasta, I just use large semolina shells. DeCecco and Barilla shells are two popular brands that will work. I'm not sure I've ever seen gluten free shells this size, but if you can find them they will work for this recipe.
For ricotta cheese, I prefer to use Calabro or BelGioiso brands, both of which don't have a lot of extra additives. Both have an incredibly creamy and smooth texture for ricotta compared to less expensive brands which I find to be more grainy.
As for broth, I use my homemade vegetable broth from my cookbook most of the time. But this chicken stock will also work if you have that on hand.
Other Fall Pasta Recipes
These butternut squash stuffed shells are one of my favorite vegetarian fall recipes. If you're craving more comforting flavors, check out these recipes.
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
- 12 oz jumbo pasta shells
- 15 oz can of butternut squash*
- 1.5 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
- 1 cup fresh kale or spinach, chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of nutmeg
Creamy Bechamel Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- ¾ cup vegetable broth
- 3 ounces chèvre goat cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the pasta according to package directions for "al dente", usually on the lower end of the cooking time. The pasta should be softened, but still firm (not mushy). Drain and set shells aside on a towel. Grease a 9x13 inch pan with a little olive oil or extra butter. In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash with ricotta, sage, chopped kale or spinach, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Fill each pasta shell with the butternut/ricotta mixture and set inside the 9x13 inch pan.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour till smooth and cook until lightly browned and bubbly. Add the milk and broth in parts, whisking after each addition until smooth. Initially it will be clumpy, but don't worry, just keep whisking till it smooths out - this is why it's helpful to do in smaller parts. Bring the sauce to a simmer (small bubbles), stirring until thickened, about 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in goat cheese until smooth. Add any salt and pepper as needed.
- Pour the sauce over and around the shells. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly on the top. Serve warm!
- The serving size calculated for this is for 4 people, which is a very generous serving that would be a full meal. This could stretch to serve 6 people easily. For those with Meniere's please use the sodium count as a guideline and understand it is much higher with the program I use than if making your own broth/adjusting sodium.
- For migraine-friendly, check the ricotta cheese for additives (use brands suggested in post) and also use homemade vegetable broth from my cookbook or this chicken stock. You can find more information on stock/broth here.
- I find canned butternut squash the fastest/easiest, but see the post for suggestions for cooking fresh in an instant pot.
- I have not tried to make this dairy free, but if you wanted to, you could try leaving out the ricotta and using more butternut squash, substituting the butter for ghee or oil, and using oat milk for the sauce.
- I have also not seen these large shells sold gluten free, but if you can find them it's a very easy substitute. Use your favorite gluten free AP flour or arrowroot to thicken the sauce.