Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

I am famous for missing out on making dishes during the "proper season."  It will be late into spring when I realize I never made delicious slow roasted bracciole during the frigid days of winter.  Now I know I won't be arrested by the culinary police if I were to make the bracciole in late May, but I'm just not into it at that time of year.  I'm already thinking of yummy lighter things to make with asparagus, peas and artichokes.  So before the breezy days of spring are upon us, I share with you a recipe I have been tinkering with for two winter seasons.  Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells - Make them quickly, before the culinary police outlaw yummy baked pastas and beautiful butternut squash! ( :

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Roast pieces of butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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While the squash roasts, saute shallots, sage and garlic.
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Boil you pasta shells for a minute or two shy of what the box says.  Drain and spread out on a baking tray to keep them from sticking together.

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Mash up the roasted squash with a fork.  I like the texture to be a little uneven.  

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To make the filling, mix up the squash with half of the shallot mixture, some cheeses and an egg.
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Fill the shells.

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They're getting cozy!
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Add some white wine to the remaining shallots and simmer to reduce.

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Add some heavy cream, sage, salt and pepper and simmer again.
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Pour the sauce over the shells and sprinkle on some pine nuts and mild blue cheese.

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Bake for 40 minutes.  Yum!!  All hail bubbling baked pasta and winter squash!!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Makes about 30 shells in 9" x 13" x 2.5" pan.

20 ounces pre-cut butternut squash pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

3/4 cup minced shallots

3 teaspoons sage, minced, divided

1 teaspoon garlic, minced or pressed

1 box jumbo shell pasta

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated ricotta salata cheese

1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided

1 egg

2/3 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 tablespoons mild blue cheese, crumbled (I used buttermilk blue)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Start heating a large pot of salted water to boiling.

Place squash pieces on large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Toss to coat.  Roast for 20-25 minutes or until soft when pierced with fork.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large saute pan over medium heat add 1 tablespoon oil, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons sage and garlic.  Saute for about 5-6 minutes or until softened.

Boil pasta for 1-2 minutes less than what the box states.  Drain and spread on a baking sheet until ready to use.  This will keep them from sticking together.  

Place roasted squash pieces in a medium bowl and use a fork to mash them.  They can be a little uneven.  It's nice to have some varied texture.

In a large bowl combine the squash, 1/2 the shallot mixture, ricotta cheese, ricotta salata cheese, romano cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream and egg.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray (or brush with olive oil).  Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons filling into each shell and arrange in dish.  

Warm up the remaining shallot mixture in pan, deglaze pan with white wine and simmer to reduce by half.  Add 2 cups heavy cream, 1 teaspoon minced sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to pan and simmer until thickened.

Pour sauce evenly over stuffed shells.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons pine nuts and 2 tablepoons blue cheese over shells.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

Notes: I've been tweaking this recipe for a while.  I discovered the butternut squash is better roasted rather than steamed or sautéed.  The roasting concentrates the flavor and there is less moisture to make your filling watery.  Instead of pureeing the butternut squash I like it mashed.  It is nice to have a little more texture in the filling.  The cream sauce is better without the addition of romano cheese.  It has a nice lighter flavor with the wine and sage.  I've gone back and forth with the blue cheese.  If you're not a fan of the blue simply omit it.  I've tasted with/without many times and I prefer with.  I like just a few crumbles placed on top of each shell.  I was also careful to find a very mild blue.  I shopped at Wegmans and in their cheese department they have the cheeses labeled with "mild", "medium" labels and so forth.  I chose the pre-crumbled buttermilk blue.

Enjoy!

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I hope you enjoy the recipe!  Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me!  Tina