Thursday, June 27, 2013

Foodie Friday: Shells Stuffed with Butternut Squash and Spinach

This past week I tried out a new recipe. My husband and I don't eat a lot of meat. It's not because we don't like it, just over the years we've slowly cut back and it's worked out pretty well (on our overall health and budget). We'll eat a meat dish maybe once or twice a week, so I like to try out new meat-less recipes for variety.

Shells Stuffed with Butternut Squash and Spinach 

It's a take on stuffed shells/manicotti or essentially lasagna in a different form. 

1 1/4 lb butternut squash
10oz baby spinach
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 fresh red chili (I didn't have this)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (I used dried)
3 sprigs of fresh oregano (I used dried)
24-30 jumbo pasta shells
24oz diced tomatoes
2/3 cup ricotta
2 oz parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Boil water and prepare pasta shells according to the package.

For the butternut squash filling, peel and cube the squash into 1" pieces. Heat a pan to medium and fry one garlic clove until slightly golden. Add the squash cubes and ~1/4 cup of water. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes or until squash is soft. Add rosemary and a little salt and pepper. 

For the spinach, heat a pan to medium and fry the other clove of garlic until just golden. Add the spinach and cook until it's all wilted. Set aside and drain. Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut through the spinach so it's easier to stuff into the shells.

In the now empty spinach pan, pour in the diced tomatoes and ~1/2 cup of water. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. I also added some italian seasoning. Pour the sauce into a 9x13" baking dish.

Season the ricotta with salt and pepper. I also used italian seasoning.
Stuff the pasta shells. I used a spoon to spread some of the ricotta inside the shell. Then spoon in some butternut squash filling and some spinach filling. Nestle the stuffed shells into the tomato sauce. 

I had extra ricotta, so I threw that on top as well. I spooned some of the tomato sauce over the shells so they wouldn't just be sitting on the tomatoes. 

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Grate on some parmesan and pop it back into the oven for another 7-10 minutes without the foil until the parmesan is melted.


It was very pretty, but a bit bland. Next time I'll add more seasoning and probably use a jar of marinara sauce instead of the plain diced tomatoes. 


  1. Mmmm, it looks good! I really like squash, but I NEVER get it and make it b/c it's such a pain to cook?? I must not have sharp knives b/c it's really hard to cut and feels like I have to cook it forever to get it soft? I don't know what my problem is.

    1. Cutting them is definitely difficult, it's not just you! Sometimes my grocery store has them pre-cut and peeled. This was my first time cooking them on the stove, but I threw them in a pot with some water, covered them and steamed them for about 20 minutes. You can also halve the squash and bake it at 350 degrees for ~1hr. I also have a recipe for butternut squash muffins. SO good! :)

    2. I finally figured out how to get my comments to "reply" to each one! LOL

  2. I love butternut squash! I really want to try this recipe; hubby definitely prefers plenty of protein but I enjoy trying meatless dishes! Maybe I can convince him to try this one :)

    1. Maybe you can stuff half the shells with a marinara/meat combo? If you try it, the recipe needs more flavor, maybe more cheese like mozzarella. :)

  3. Those looked beautiful! Thing about stuffed shells that I've found out over the years is that you really have to be assertive with your seasonings, otherwise it all ends up tasting the same.
    If you don't mind a little heat, throw some crushed red pepper flakes into the red sauce when you're cooking it. With the garlic, add some onion (if you like onion) and let those along with the pepper flakes caramelize a bit before you add the tomatoes or marinara. I find that gives a great depth to any red sauce dish I prepare.

    1. Mmm! I love a little kick to most everything. I will definitely try that out! Thanks!