Growing up, stuffed shells were always a dinnertime staple. As a kid, those big pasta shells stuffed with cheese and topped with tomato sauce were my idea of the ultimate comfort food.
Feeling nostalgic, I recreated this childhood classic, but with a twist. Instead of the traditional cheese filling, I opted for a seasonal mixture incorporating two of my favorite flavor combinations: kale and butternut squash.
The rich and sweet butternut squash and earthy kale easily transform these stuffed shells into an unforgettable dish. The best part? These shells can be continually reinvented by swapping out this filling with a blend of other seasonally inspired vegetables.
- 30 jumbo pasta shells
- Three lbs. butternut squash, I purchased the pre-cut kind
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups kale (about 1 small bunch), center rib removed & shredded
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Toss butternut squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread evenly across a large baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes, or until squash is very soft and tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the shells and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Toss shells with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together and keep in colander until use.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the kale and garlic, stir to coat and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 8 minutes.
- Add the butternut squash to a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the cooked kale, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, nutmeg and cayenne pepper, and mix together until well combined. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Instead of spooning the filling directly into the shells, save yourself some time and spoon the filling into a large Ziploc bag. Cut one of the corners off the bag and pipe the filling into the shells. Spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray, arrange the shells and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.