Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce

Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.com

Every year I suffer from the syndrome of good intentions.  I want to transform my home into a winter wonderland of beauty and wonder, bake dozens of cookies to gift to friends and handcraft each and every item I gift.

The month of December is one where I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, snarling at everyone to just stay out of my way.  I want to enjoy the holiday and my family so I’m trying to pick just a few projects and keep things simple.  However we are hosting a large party in a few weeks so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Having dishes that I can prepare ahead of time and freeze really helps out with staying on task.  This is a dish that makes a pretty fair amount and I usually make extra so that I can take it out of the freezer and have a home cooked meal on the table without any preparation.

The shells are stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan and Swiss chard.  The chard adds a nice texture and helps lighten the dish a bit.  You can serve them with your favorite tomato sauce but this butternut squash sauce is sublime.  Rich, creamy and slightly sweet I can eat it by the spoonful.  The addition of the apple cider vinegar really brightens the flavors and balances the natural sweetness of the squash.  I think I might try just tossing it with a little spaghetti next time and adding a few fried sage leaves and hazelnuts.

I hope you all a sane and beautiful holiday.  Enjoy your friends and family and don’t worry about everything being perfect.

Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.com Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.com

Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.comRicotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.com

Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce
Serves: 6
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • ½ medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For the filling:
  • 1 pound Swiss chard
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 20-25 jumbo dried pasta shells
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a large, sharp knife, trim the ends of the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Peel with a vegetable peeler. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. On a baking sheet toss the butternut squash and onion with the olive oil, chili flakes and salt. Roast until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  2. Transfer squash to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add apple cider vinegar, chicken stock and half and half, process until smooth adding a little more stock if needed to thin if necessary. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  3. Cook the shells according to directions in well-salted water until al dente. Drain and let cool enough to handle with your hands. Lightly oil a large baking dish or several smaller dishes.
  4. To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  5. Remove the stems from the Swiss chard and finely chop and slice the rest of the leaves into ribbons. Add the chard stems to a medium skillet with the tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften and then add the rest of the chard and cook until wilted. Let cool slightly before adding to the ricotta mixture.
  6. Spread a ⅓ of the sauce across the bottom of a lightly oiled 9x13 inch baking dish or several smaller dishes. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, uncover for the last 15 minutes or until the shells are hot and cooked through. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.

Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce | www.scalingbackblog.com




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  • Meet Tina | Scaling Back Blog

    Self-taught cook, photographer.  You can usually find me at a farmers market dreaming up alternative recipes for my allergy prone family.

    11 thoughts on “Ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce

    1. Rick

      Recipe looks great, but what do you do with the mozzarella and nutmeg that are listed in the ingredients? They aren’t mentioned in the recipe itself. Do they go in the ricotta mixture or over the top? You also say that to transfer the squash to the food processor, but what about the onions that were roasting with them? Do you put them in the food processor, too?

      1. Tina Post author

        Hi Rick,

        Sorry for the confusion, this is one of my earlier attempts at writing a recipe and I obviously made some errors. I’ve rewritten the recipe so it should be correct now. The mozzarella and nutmeg go into the ricotta mixture and the squash and onions both go into the food processor. I hope you enjoy the recipe and thanks again for pointing out the omissions!

        1. Rick

          Thanks so much for the quick reply and edits. The recipe looks so good that i’m making it for dinner tonight. Thanks!

      1. Tina Post author

        Hi Lyndsey,

        I’m sorry you didn’t like the recipe. Butternut squash is naturally sweet but there isn’t any additional sweetener in the sauce. I find that if I have a squash that it too sweet I add a little extra vinegar or chili flakes to tone down the sugar. Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m sorry you were disappointed.

      1. Tina | Scaling Back Blog Post author

        Hi Robin,

        You can do either but for the best flavor and texture I would freeze it uncooked and then just add an extra 10 minutes to the cooking time. I would also cover it with foil for the first 15 minutes so the top doesn’t brown too quickly and then leave it uncovered for the rest of the bake. You can cook it before you freeze it but I would cover it with foil during reheating to prevent it from drying out and maybe add a splash of milk to the top. Let me know if you give it a try and what you think!

    2. Shay

      Hi! Not sure if I missed it in the recipe, but do the shells bake at 375, same as the squash? I noticed it didn’t mention a temp. I’ll be making this for sure once the weather gets a little chillier!


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