I’m going to go all basic on you guys today. Fall basic, to be exact. But being basic sometimes can be a good thing, right? RIGHT?! Tell me I’m right.
Butternut squash and pumpkin everything take over the internets this time of year, and I know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. If you want to lump this together with every other roasted squash recipe you’ve had crammed into your face in the last month, I’ll understand…but I warn you, you’ll be making a mistake.
When it comes to butternut, I think it reigns supreme over pumpkin. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin just as much as the next gal, but there’s something about butternut squash that makes me weak in the knees. It is, hands down, my favorite fall veggie to work with. It roasts up beautifully and can be used in so many different ways. During the fall and winter months, I buy at least one squash a week at the store, sometimes two. I cannot get enough and look forward to it all summer long.
When it comes to cheesy, gooey stuffed shells, I’m generally on board no matter what. Throw in some creamy butternut squash and spicy fresh sage and I’m pretty much done for. Like, just slay me with your butternut squash covered spoon, will ya? It’s my basic undoing.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way. One of THE most popular recipes on the blog is my butternut squash lasagna (forgive those horrid pictures!). And while that may not surprise you this time of year, it is popular ALL YEAR ROUND. Apparently, people get a jonesin’ for cozy fall flavors in July. Hey, I’m not hating on it. I am, after all, the self-proclaimed soup queen, and that title extends to all months of the year. #sorrynotsorry
I tend to agree with the masses. That lasagna is supremely awesome. But, let’s be honest: lasagna can be kind of labor intensive. It’s not a secret. Sure, it results in something amazingly comforting and satisfying, but we don’t always have the time to make four layers of ingredients which we then have to assemble into something that makes sense which we then have to bake for a substantial amount of time.
These stuffed shells are the answer! Now, I know someone is going to say “but, Molly, stuffed shells aren’t exactly simple either.” BUT! I beg to differ. These stuffed shells involve roasting butternut squash and pureeing it up, but that really is the most “difficult” part of the whole recipe. You’ll still end up with something totally comforting and scrumptious but with half the effort of a lasagna.
AND the squash does double duty for you because we’re putting it both inside the shells themselves and in the sauce as well. For double your butternut fun! (Double the pleasure, double the fun…double-nut gum? Er…let’s pretend that didn’t just happen…)
And here I go again with my tried and true statement: you can eat this for multiple meals, which kind of makes the extra effort worth it. I love that I can put in an hour of work one night and eat fabulously for three more. It just works in my busy life.
I love serving these shells with a simple side salad and maybe a hunk of warmed, crusty bread. Oh, and a glass of red zin. Yes. That just sounds like perfection, doesn’t it?
See? Basic doesn’t have to be so bad.
In fact, I think it’s rather awesome.
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Olive oil, for roasting
Salt and pepper
1 (15-oz) container ricotta cheese
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated asiago cheese, divided
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup finely chopped sage leaves
1 box of medium shells
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1½ cups milk (2% or whole work best)
1 cup of the butternut squash puree from above
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup grated asiago cheese
¼ cup finely chopped sage leaves
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Additional whole sage leaves for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Spread the squash, onion, and garlic cloves out in an even layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle everything with the brown sugar. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything with your hands to evenly coat. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender and caramelized in spots. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta shells in salted boiling water for 5-6 minutes. You want them to be only slightly tender. Drain and place the cooked shells on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Allow the squash mixture to cool slightly before placing it in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the machine until the veggies are mostly pureed. Spoon out roughly 1 cup of the mixture and set aside (this will be added to the sauce). Add the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, half of the asiago cheese, half of the parmesan cheese, and the chopped sage to the remaining squash puree in the food processor. Pulse to combine everything.
Melt the butter in a medium pot and once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute or so and then slowly stream in the milk, whisking constantly. Cook over medium heat, whisking almost constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the reserved butternut squash puree. Add in the cheeses and the sage and stir until everything is smooth.
Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spoon the filling into the cooked shells and arrange them in the sauce layer.
Once all the shells have been filled and placed in the dish, pour the remaining sauce over top and top with the remaining mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan cheeses. Top with whole sage leaves, if desired.
Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.