It's Autumn ya'll and that means it's dark and cold when you wake up in the morning and 75 degrees by mid-day. Tis' the season for pumpkin, squash and lots of roasted everything in the kitchen. This recipe is no different. I've roasted one butternut squash with one onion, purée'd them together, added a dash of milk and a cup of broth and what's left is a smooth, creamy sauce that's something different for a quick pasta meal.
I could see making tweaks to this recipe like using a few sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash or using more liquid in the purée to make the sauce stretch further. Play around a bit and find what works best for your personal tastes!
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 pound sausage, such as Italian
- 2 cups spinach
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 pound jumbo shells, cooked al dente
- 15 ounces ricotta (1 small container)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
- Additional parmesan, shredded
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
*will make two 9x13 pans*
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you have convection, turn on.
- Arrange onion and butternut squash in an even layer on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 50-60 minutes. If using convection, check after 30 minutes. Squash should be easy to poke through with a fork.
- Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and cook shells until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook sausage over medium heat. When sausage is mostly browned, add spinach and garlic. Cook until spinach is wilted and remove from heat.
- Place roasted butternut squash and onion in a food processor. Keep steam hole open and place a kitchen towel over with your hand.
- Pulse until a smooth puree forms. Allow to cool. Stir in 1/2 cup of milk and 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth. Pour half of the butternut squash sauce into each base of two 9x13 baking dishes.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, and egg. Add sausage and spinach into ricotta and stir until evenly distributed. Taste and add salt and pepper.
- Fill cooked pasta shells with 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Arrange shells in butternut squash sauce in the 9x13 baking dishes. Top with additional parmesan.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil followed by 15 minutes uncovered. If using convection, bake for 20 minutes covered followed by 10 minutes uncovered.
A note about CONVECTION: Not all ovens have convection but something I've noticed in my days of teaching others how to use their appliances (for a living) is that a lot of home cooks never use it if they do. Let me make one thing clear: Convection is simply the act of moving air around in your oven cavity. This is supposed to create more even results, and usually does. However, some brands have a convection fan that moves air around that the baking element at the bottom of the oven has produced and other brands have a true convection mode where the fans in the back are the source of heat. When convection is on it can cook things faster because of the efficiency of circulating air. What this means is, if time is limited for roasting the butternut squash and onion for a full hour before pureeing it, turn on convection and check the squash after about 30 minutes. Add time if needed but it will certainly finish softening before the hour is up.
After stuffing each shell with ricotta and sausage filling, place rows in the sauce and top with additional parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes covered then for an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
If using Convection, cook for about 20 minutes covered then for an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
For extra browning: Turn on broiler and cook for an additional 1-3 minutes until desired golden is reached.