Monday, March 2, 2015

How To Use Up Squash: Stuffed Shells

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I don't know about you, but by this time of year I am getting sick of winter veggies and I start longing for things like fresh asparagus, tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes and a salad instead of roasted veggies. Still, we have quite a few more weeks to go before I can start using all those springtime veggies I crave so I'm left with winter staples: hearty greens, butternut squash and potatoes.

Don't get me wrong, I love fall and winter staples, but since they've been the main source of our diet since October, by March I'm getting more than a little bored. That's why I was looking for a new way to use up some of the butternut squash lurking in my pantry and stumbled across the idea for stuffed shells.

This recipe is simple, hearty and really delicious, plus it uses squash and spinach so its a wintertime veggie win! You can use sausage in this recipe (the way I did) or swap in ground chicken or turkey and just make sure to season it up well with sage, salt and pepper. That will make it a little leaner without compromising much of the flavor. Also, the butternut squash is smooth and creamy in the sauce, rather than in roasted chunks, which definitely makes it taste like a brand new ingredient, rather than yet another squash dish.

Butternut Squash & Sausage Stuffed Shells

1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
1/2 yellow onion (sliced)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 lb. mild sausage
2 cups raw spinach leaves
3 cloves garlic (minced)
15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. jumbo pasta shells (cooked al dente and slightly cooled)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 400 degrees, toss the onion and butternut squash with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about an hour until tender and golden.

Brown the sausage over medium heat, then add the spinach and garlic to the pan. Cook until the spinach is just wilted, then remove from heat.

Puree the onion and squash in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add in the milk and broth, pulsing until completely smooth. 

Pour the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. 

Combine the ricotta, parmesan and egg in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper before adding in the sausage/spinach mixture. Fill the cooked pasta shells evenly with the ricotta filling and arrange on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the Panko breadcrumbs and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes to crisp up the top.

Recipe slightly adapted from Rachel Schultz

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