18 November 2009

A Recipe for Ricotta and Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Pesto

Ricotta and Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta with Pesto

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard, to get her poor doggie a bone, and when she got there the cupboard was bare.....well you know the rest. Yes the cupboards here at MTBT were bare so what to do, what to do? Shall I call out for pizza, invite myself to a friends for dinner or get creative in the kitchen and use what I have available. Canadian Chef Michael Smith would be so proud!! Put those chef hats on tight because Valli is in the kitchen!!!!! Could it be that even a week later I am still reeling from all the wonderful food we had in San Francisco at the Foodbuzz Festival and still need a reality check...sigh....This is probably the first meal I have actually attempted in the past week or so without just pulling something from the freezer. Well I was feeling creative so let's see what we have in the kitchen to work with without heading to the grocers.

I was in the mood for pasta and I see some of those jumbo pasta shells peaking out from the dark recesses. In my pantry there is an entire cupboard dedicated to pasta in every shape and size from reginette to orecchiette. I imagine your "foodie" cupboards to be the same the same.

When making delicious pasta dishes, be sure to choose a pasta shape and sauce that compliments each other. Thin, delicate pastas like angel hair or thin spaghetti, should be served with light, slightly thinner sauces. Thicker pasta shapes, like fettuccine, work well with heavier sauces. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges like mostaccioli or radiatore, are perfect receptacles for chunkier sauces.

Now let's get back to making that dish. Put your bifocals on Ms. Burnt Toast. What about that bright orange squash that has been eyeballing you for the past few weeks? It has been there since October when you purchased it at the farmers market!!!! Sheesh!!!! With its thick orange flesh and its nutty sweet flavor, the butternut squash has become a favorite ingredient around here in casseroles, quick breads, muffins, soups and even pie...so why not pasta. I have coveted many an autumnal pasta dish on many of your blogs over the past few months that have used squash and pumpkin.

Check the freezer...ooh pesto!!!!! I have afterall been dubbed the "pesto queen" by some. I have some frozen and ready to go made with toasted pine nuts and some with walnuts, either of which would offer a rich nutty flavour that would marry well with the autumn flavours of the butternut squash. I think any dish that I adore has to have at least one tablespoon of basil pesto to remind me of summer!!!! Could it be any better than the reminder of fresh basil and other herbs basking in the sun. Now don't go daydreaming Ms. Burnt Toast. You have the masses to feed...well not really...but you know. Open the fridge door...note to self...remove leftovers and chuck in bin before something reaches out and grabs you!!! What do you see?....the remainders of a container of fresh ricotta from the Italian supermarket and some Parmigiano-Reggiano ...so let's go!!!!!

This dish was healthy as well as delicious. The pesto will impart a garlicky robust flavour to both the tomato sauce and the ricotta filling. This compliments the sweet buttery flavour of the butternut squash perfectly. I was thinking some mushrooms would go so well in the sauce as well when I make this the next time!!!!
I am sending this dish over to Presto Pasta Nights which is the invention of the lovely and talented Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast - Every Kitchen Tells It's Stories. I can hardly believe that this is week #140 of PPN!!! How does Ruth keep it all together with all of her other commitments as well. You rock woman!!!! This week's host is Kait of Pots and Plots.

Also check out the new KNORK that I received in my "goodie" bag at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco. That's it pictured up above. It's designed to provide the benefits of both a knife and a fork. It's the next best thing to chopsticks!!!!Imagine it even gives you one less thing to wash or load up in the dishwasher since you will never find a use for your knife again...except for steak knives of course!

**Ricotta and Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Pesto**

20 jumbo pasta shells
2 cups cubed roasted, such as butternut or banana
salt and white pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
1 (500gram) container ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons homemade or store-bought pesto ( had some spinach pesto in the freezer as well)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 -14-oz ( 398 mL) can tomato sauce, or homemade
2 tablespoons cold water

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Add the pasta, return to a boil and adjust the heat so the water gently boils. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

When the pasta shells are cooked, drain well, cool in cold water and drain well again. Thoroughly mash the baked squash and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the pesto, salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg and quarter-cup of the Parmesan cheese. Pour the tomato sauce and water into a 9-by-13-inch casserole; mix in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the pesto.

Divide and stuff the mashed squash into the bottom part of the pasta shells. Top the squash with the ricotta mixture, stuffing the pasta shells as full as you can get them.

Set the stuffed pasta shells, stuffed side up, on top of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the shells with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until the pasta is golden on top.

To Roast Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with a piece of aluminium foil and spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the squash on a cutting board. With a small strong knife, remove the stem portion of the squash. Slice the squash in half end-to-end.

Scrape the seeds and pulp from the center of the squash with a large spoon and discard. Then cut each portion in half, creating four pieces which are approximately equal in size.

Place the wedges on the baking sheet, with the cut side up. Using a pastry brush, coat each piece of butternut squash with melted butter.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the buttered squash pieces.

Cover the squash with foil, and place in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the squash stand for 5 minutes. Remove flesh and mash thoroughly.

Serves 5 - 6

Check out what our friends are doing with their butternut squash....

Foodista - Butternut Squash and Chorizo Pasta
Evil Shenanigans - Pasta with Gruyere and Butternut Squash
The Paupered Chef - Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce
Adventures in Shaw - Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Andrea Meyers - Roasted Butternut Squash with Penne
Guilty Kitchen - Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Vegetables
Kait's Plate - Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Cannelloni with Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
Jenn & Roberto of Leftover Queen - Rigatoni with Butternut Squash and Prawns
Joan of FOODalogue - Squash Stuffed Pasta 2 Ways
Eats Well With Others - Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Butternut Squash

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. That dish is very original! I bet those shells are fantastic!



  2. If only I can find these big shells around here, I would be so happy!!!! I love the combination of squash and ricotta!!!

  3. Question.. the recipe says cubed roasted squash. The roasting intsructions say mash the squash. What's the best way to get it cubed?

  4. Duly noted and changed Cathy, the squash is mashed to perfection.

  5. I always forget about stuffed shells. I think I've only made them once before

  6. Awesome. You know I won't say no to stuffed shells with a pesto-flavored filling. ;-)

    I must admit my cupboards are bare when it comes to pasta. I have tons of rice and barley, but the pasta I tend to only buy when I know I'm making pasta for dinner.

  7. what an elegant dish! it sounds absolutely delectable, val, and it's fancy enough for even the most discerning of tastes. :)

  8. Pasta stuffed with ricotta & butternut squash sounds wonderfully delicious!

  9. OK, you got me with that title. All those squashes and pumpkins that watch me from every room in my house are not too happy every time I take one of them to the kitchen, but it's their fault for being so delicious! LOL. I love this recipe and I didn't realize that pastas and sauces should be paired... Now I've learned something new :)

  10. I think using what we have on hand, sometimes brings out the best recipes. This is a wonderful dish Val...big pasta shells are always a favourite.

  11. Fantastic post and what a brilliant idea for stuffed pasta shells (my favorite baked pasta by far). And you are correct, Chef Michael would be very proud of you.

    Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  12. This sounds amazing! What a great way to use what is in your cupboards!

  13. This looks fantastic. I would love to serve this as a first course for Thanksgiving.

  14. Way to make something out of nothing! Thank goodness squash has a long shelf life. I have one that has been sitting for 2 weeks. I really need to use it!

  15. I have a squah in the pantry that Im wondering what to do with... this sounds delish

  16. I love these shells, look amazing and tasty, nice work dear Vall, and I love rioctta too. xxgloria

  17. This pasta dish is fantastic!! Love the ricotta and butternut tandem!

  18. Looks great. I love stuffed shells

  19. I would say you made Chef Michael proud with what you created. It looks so delicious Val and I love how you added the pesto(pesto queen).

  20. Sounds like a perfect dish for this cold, rainy autumn night!

  21. Thanks for the winter squash shout-out! This dish looks fantastic, I can't believe it was a spur-of-the-moment invention.

    Pesto makes everything taste better, doesn't it? It has a drop of summer in every basil-y bite.

  22. Wow, this sounds incredible. I think I could eat this pasta dish every single day. :)

  23. LOVE this - a fantastic combo and as always great pictures!

  24. What a delicious dish! Great use of the butternut squash.

  25. Great combo! I have some eggroll wrappers in the freezer that I was thinking of using for some kind of cannelloni, and this filling might be a winner!

  26. Val, this just looks amazing. I love the combination of butternut squash and ricotta, and the pesto would add just a perfect touch of salty-nutty goodness!

  27. Wow, I feel I can touch the food! THat shot is great.

  28. What a super recipe! I love those big shells- always am looking for something new to stuff them with. Roasting squash makes it so flavorful too and I love the touch of nutmeg. Yummy meal.

  29. Stuffing shells with this delicious combination is yummy sounding.

  30. (1) You have very good taste in plates (I have the same one featured in your first photo)...and
    (2) Some of the best meals are the ones created from necessity, i.e. ingredients we have lying around or leftovers!

    This dish sounds delish, Val, and I'm so happy to hear you had a great time at Foodbuzz in SF!

  31. Great meal! I love stuffing shells and butternut squash goes so well with pasta.

  32. These stuffed pasta shells sound so good! Great presentation!


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