Giant pasta shells stuffed with roasted butternut squash, kale and ricotta. Baked in a tasty tomato sauce topped with creamy mozzarella. These butternut squash stuffed shells are truly delicious. Perfect for a cosy weekend dinner.
We're huge fans of stuffed shells, there's something very cosy about a large shell of pasta stuffed with a cheesy filling! My spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are one of the most requested dinners in my house all year round!
This version has a bit of a winter twist. I use butternut squash and kale to stuff these shells. This is so easy to make and is great for using up any leftover squash or kale hanging around your fridge!
The squash is roasted with thyme then added to kale, herbs, ricotta and a veggie parmesan. Each shell is stuffed then placed on a bed of tomato sauce and baked in the oven with creamy mozzarella. I think you're going to love this as much as we do!
📝What Do We Need?
- Pasta Shells - You will need large pasta shells for this recipe. They are called Conchiglioni and you should find them in larger supermarkets.
- Butternut Squash - I use about half a large butternut squash for this recipe. I peel the squash and cut it into bitesize cubes to roast.
- Kale - I use curley kale for this recipe but you could also use calovo nero (black kale) if you want.
- Cheese - there are 3 types of cheese in this recipe, ricotta, vegetarian parmesan and mozzarella. I use the full-fat versions but you could swap them for lighter versions if you wish.
- For the sauce - you will need 2 cans of chopped (diced) tomatoes, onion, carrot and celery.
🥣 How To Make It
1. Roast the Butternut Squash - Cut the squash into bitesize chunks. Add some fresh thyme, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast until soft.
2. Make the Sauce - cook the onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the garlic and oregano then add the cans of tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes then blend the sauce with a hand-held blender.
3. Cook the conchiglioni and wilt the kale. Then add the kale, cheese, herbs, garlic, and squash to a large bowl and mix.
4. Stuff the shells - place the shells on the tomato sauce then grate the mozzarela over the shells. Bake for 20 minutes.
👩🍳 Top Tips
- Don't over cook the pasta! The pasta will cook more in the sauce. Try not to overcook them as they will be hard to fill if they are too soft. I always add a couple of extra shells just in case any break.
- Rinse the pasta in cold water - this is probably the only time you will need to rinse cooked pasta in cold water! Doing this will stop the pasta from cooking and it will be kinder on your hands when you are filling the shells!
- Blend the sauce - The sauce can be quite chunky so I like to blend it before I add the stuffed shells. But it's up you, I sometimes serve the sauce as is and it stills goes down a treat.
- Grill it - I like to finnish this dish off under the grill (broiler) for a couple pf minutes. Doing this will give you a lovely crispy topping. You don't have to do this but I recommend it!
📋 Variations and Substitutions
- Swap the kale for spinach, if you're not a fan of kale you can easily swap it for spinach. Just cook the spinach until wilted and squeeze out any excess water before you add it to the ricotta.
- Switch up the herbs - I have made this with a few different herbs and while rosemary and thyme work the best sage worked really well too.
- Stuck for time? Use pasatta instead of making the sauce! You can easily swap the sauce for a good pasatta, I would use one that has added herbs and garlic for extra flavour.
You can use this mixture to make cannelloni. Use my method from my spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Or use the filling to fill Manicotti pasta, you may need to use a piping bag to fill these.
Yes, you can. You can make the sauce a day or two beforehand. You could make the filling a day or two ahead. The stuffed shells can be assembled and refrigerated unbaked up to two days in advance.
Yes, you can. I would freeze this before baking, as baking the shells, freezing, then reheating can dry them out. Assemble the shells in a baking dish lined with sauce. Top with the grated mozzarella, then cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil and freeze for up to two months.
Leave the dish to thaw overnight in the fridge. Once thawed, bake at 190°C/ 375°F for 25 minutes. Bake the shells until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Finish the dish under the grill (broiler) for a couple of minutes to get an extra crispy topping!
🍽 How To Serve Them
We love these on their own, you could serve a simple green side salad with this if you like. Some garlic bread always goes down well too when I make them. I would let them cool slightly in the pan before I serve them as they will be piping hot!
🍝 More Tasty Dinner Ideas
If you liked this recipe then you might want to check out some of our favourite dinners. Like this Stuffed Squash with Wild Rice, this is one of my all-time favourite squash recipes and is so easy to make. Another favourite of mine is my Kale and Quinoa Salad, even the teenager in my house loves this! And finally, a reader favourite is my Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake, this is so easy to make and tastes amazing!
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
For The Sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 stalks of celery finely chopped
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 x 400g (2 x 14.5 oz) cans of chopped (diced) tomatoes
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For The Stuffed Shells
- ½ a large butternut squash peeled and cut into bitesize chunks
- 100 g (4 cups) kale shredded and woody stems removed
- 250 g ( 1 cup) ricotta
- 45 g (½ a cup) vegetarian parmesan finely grated
- 2 cloves of garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced
- 1 tsp chopped rosemary
- 1 ¼ tsp chopped thyme leaves divided into 1 teaspoon and ¼ teaspoon
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ tsp olive oil divided into 1 teaspoon and ½ a teaspoon
- 21 large pasta shells (conghiglioni)
- 1 125g ball of (1 x 8 oz) of fresh mozzarella
To Make The Filling
- Heat the oven to 180°C /355°F fan or 200°C/390°F conventional ovenPlace the chunks of butternut squash on a baking tray. Add a pinch of chopped thyme some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the butternut squash and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the squash is cooked.Meanwhile, make the sauce.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil to a large frying pan.Add the washed kale and cook until wilted.Once cooked chop the kale finely and leave to cool.
- Add the ricotta, vegetarian parmesan and garlic to a large bowl.Add the kale, the roasted butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary and 1 teaspoon of chopped thyme leaves to the bowl.Season with salt and pepper and mix well.It's ok if some of the butternut squash chunks are mashed into the cheese.
- Cook the pasta shells in a large pan of salted water.Cook to the packet instruction minus a minute or two. The pasta should not be cooked fully it will cook when in the oven.Retain 2 tablespoons of the pasta water.Drain the pasta shells in a colander and then rinse the shell under the cold tap.
To Make The Sauce
- Heat 1 and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan.Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot along with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often.Once the onion has softened add the 2 cloves of garlic that have been put through a garlic press. Add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, stir well and cook for a minute.Pour in 2 cans of chopped (diced) tomatoes. Add ½ of sea salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring often.Blend the sauce with a hand-held blender once the vegetables are soft and the sauce is nice and thick.If you find the sauce is too thick add a splash of water.
To Assemble The Pasta Shells
- Stir the pasta water into the sauce.If you are using a casserole dish pour the sauce into the dish now.Take a teaspoon or two of the mixture and stuff it into one shell. Place the shell onto the sauce.Repeat until you have filled all the shells.
- Grate the mozzarella over the shells.Place the pan or casserole dish in the oven, on the middle shelf, and bake at 180°C /355°F fan or 200°C/390°F conventional oven for about 15 - 20 minutes.I sometimes pop the pan under the grill (broiler) for the last 5 minutes.Leave to cool slightly before serving.
- Pasta - Don't over cook the pasta! The pasta will cook in the sauce. I always add a couple of extra shells too just in case any break.
- Rinse - Rinse the pasta in cold water. Doing this will stop the pasta from cooking and it will be kinder on your hands when you are filling the shells!
- The sauce - Blend the sauce, it can be quite chunky so I like to blend it before I add the stuffed shells. But it's up to you, I sometimes serve the sauce as is and it stills goes down a treat.
- Grill it - I like to finish this dish under the grill (broiler) for a couple of minutes. Doing this will give you a lovely crispy topping. You don't have to do this but I recommend it!
- Pan - My pan is very large, it measures 28cm/11 inches in diameter and is 7cm/3 inches deep.
- Freezing/Making Ahead/Leftovers - This dish can be frozen, freeze it before you cook it and thaw it overnight in the fridge before you cook it. You can make the entire dish 2 days in advance, just keep it refrigerated. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge and should be eaten within two days. Reheat in the oven or microwave until piping hot.
- Nutritional Information - Nutritional information is calculated using an online nutrition tool and is approximate. It is based on one serving of 4.
- Weights and measurements - For US readers, I use Cuisipro measuring cups and spoons, and a Pyrex measuring jug for liquids. These are the industry standard. Cup/spoon volumes can differ from brand to brand, for accuracy, I recommend weighing all ingredients if possible for best results.