Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

This is one of my most asked for recipes, hands down.  When I have it for left overs I have to bring in extra for a couple people in my office who love them, right Emily!?!!  These are semi labor intensive but like my last post where I talked about freezing ahead, I make two (this recipe makes two 9×13 trays) and freeze one.  They freeze amazingly well.   The butternut squash I made is slightly sweet and smooth with that rich taste that only copious amounts of cheese can give you.

Let me warn you, this is not a low fat dish, there is really no way to make it low fat.  It is not gluten free or dairy free.  This is a good old fashion clog your arteries with goodness dish.  You will not need to have more than 3-4 shells (unless you are 17 year old boy who can devour about 10 of them in 30 seconds flat!) because they are so rich.  I most often serve with carrots or a green veggie. 

I originally got this recipe from a magazine 6-7 years ago but have doctored, played around and generally changed it so much I dont feel bad passing it off as my own.  I love to do that; do math on my recipes..  You know: add a little, subtract a little, multiply this or divide that.  Drives me boys nuts in someways.  “Mom what is the recipe?”  UMMMMMMM I dont know.. it started out *this* but now its *this*.  Its good for them.. keeps them on their toes and teaches them to try new things some times.

First a note about cheese.  I very seldom buy preshredded cheese for anything other than tacos (or for Rob and the kids to use).  When I am cooking I buy the one pound blocks of mozzarella, the 8 oz blocks of cheddar and I never buy canned or ready grated hard italians.  Part of what keeps those shreds from clumping is a de-clumping agent, sometimes natural products but it isnt cheese.  I am paying for cheese, I want cheese!  So take the time and grate it or shred it yourself.  It tastes better and is more cost effective.  Already shredded cheese is generally more expensive because of the convenience factor.. seriously a 1 lb block of cheese takes 2 minutes to shred.. and it is a dollar more in some stores.   You do the math!

Ingredients

2 boxes of  jumbo shells
2 jars of your favorite alfredo sauce (can do low fat, but I’ve yet found one I like)
1/2 cup milk
6-7 grates fresh nutmeg (can use 1/4 tsp ground but the fresh is so much better)
2 tsps ground sage
1 15 oz container of part skim ricotta
1 egg
10-12 grates of fresh nutmeg (or about 1/2 tsp ground)
2 1/2 cups of your squash (or store bought) with any extra fluid drained off
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan or other hard italian cheese (optional)
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

First boil your noodles in salted water. (see note about salted water below***)  And drain well and put aside to cool slightly.

 

In a seperate bowl mix the alfredo sauce,  milk, nutmeg and sage.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.


Mix your filling together which consists of the ricotta, egg, squash, 1/4 cup of the shredded cheddar and 1/4 cup of the parmesan.  Mix together until smooth.

 

Now it is time to stuff!  This is a blast, the kids and I do this part.  They always over fill but after a few gentle reminders they get better.  Spread alittle of the sauce in the bottom of your greased 9 x13 pan.   I use one metal one for dinner and then another aluminum one to get in the freezer.   


You want to fill them so that you can almost fully close them.   Then lay them with the opening facing the side.  Fill up and cover with half of your sauce (remember this makes two pans).  You should make sure that the sauce is on all the shells so you might have to pull it out of the crevices between the shells. 

Take the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/4 cup parm and 2-3 cups mozzarella and cover the shells.

Bake at 350 for about an hour until bubbly or the drooling has gotten so bad you cant stand it.    It comes out all yummy with crunchy cheese around the edges!

Serve with your favorite veggie and some nice crusty bread.   So tasty..

*** There is some controversy about salting your pasta water but i did a little experiment after something I saw on a cooking show.  I boiled pasta one night in salted water (1 tbsp kosher salt in 10 cups of water adding one pound pasta) and served it with just butter and pepper, no one person added salt.  The following week made it with no salt in the water and both of the kids added salt and it was much more salt than what the pasta had in it from the water.   Cool huh!!  Now if you are on a restricted salt diet please omit.

I love this recipe. It is fun to make, not too hard and other than a bit time consuming, so worth it.  Rob doesnt eat squash (neither will the boys but they will eat this) so when I make this I make two lasagnas or two stuffed italian shells as well. The kids eat both so there works out to be enough for dinner and a couple lunches for Rob and I.  Ihope you try it and love it as much as I do.

Happy Cooking!

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