This is one of the 1st things I pinned on to my "Food to Make" board but it took me about 9 months to actually make it. I will have to say it was completely worth the wait. Although these stuffed shells are rich it isn't a terribly heavy meal. These shells have so many different layers of flavors, the ricotta cheese is creamy, the sage earthy, the butternut squash is sweet and the lemon gives it a fresh finish. All of those aspects come together to make a perfect winter meal. Give it a try this weekend!
15-20 Large Shells
2 Cups Butternut Squash - Peel & Diced
14 oz Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese + extra for topping
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Cup Spinach
1 Tbsp & 1 Tsp Olive Oil
1 Lemon for Zest & Juice
1 Stick of Light Butter
15 Sage Leaves
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Peel and dice up your butternut squash. Arrange on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes until softened and gold brown.While the butternut squash is roasting you can also saute your spinach in a medium pan over medium heat with the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper the spinach as well. Then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta shells. Cook the shells according to the package.
In a large bowl combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheese, egg and garlic. Give the mixture a couple of good stirs. When the butternut squash and spinach have finished cooking allow them to cool for a few minutes and then add them into the bowl with the cheeses. Then decrease the oven temp to 400 F.
Grate about a Tbsp of lemon zest over to of the vegetables and stir the entire mixture together. The shells should be finished by now so drain the water and set them aside. I cooked more than the needed 15 in case they ripped while they were cooking. When they are cool enough to touch you can begin filling them.
Spray a pyrex dish with Pam and create an assembly line with the pasta shells and butternut squash mixture. Take each shell and fill it with a large spoonful of the mixture. Place them in the sprayed dish. Do this for all of the shells until you've used the entire bowl of filling. Line the shells up in the dish. Bake the shells at 400 F for about 25 minutes until golden brown and the tops have a slight crisp to them.
When the shells are almost done baking you can make the sage brown butter sauce. In a medium sized pan over low heat slowly melt the stick of butter. Make sure you stir frequently to keep it from burning, you want the butter to become light brown and bubbling. Put the sage leaves into the butter and allow them to get crisp. This whole process should take no more than a few minutes. Be very careful not to burn the butter.
Take the brown butter sauce off of the heat and squeeze 1/2 of the lemon you used for grating into the butter, this will brighten the flavor and cut the fat from the butter. Give the butter a few good stirs. When the shells are finished baking, spoon the brown butter sauce over the entire dish. Make sure each shells gets a least 1 sage leaf.
Sprinkle the top of the baking dish with more Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
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