Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Butternut squash stuffed shells are the ultimate fall comfort food! Filled with creamy spinach "ricotta," this recipe is an all-time fan favorite.

Stuffed Shells

Creamy, tangy, and with a caramelized sweetness from roasted butternut squash, this stuffed shells recipe is one you’re sure to love. It’s loosely based on the other stuffed shells recipe that I made a few years ago. The two recipes differ in that the other is more traditional, served in a simple homemade marinara sauce, but they share the luscious creamy filling that makes them hardly taste vegan. In lieu of any ricotta, Parmesan, or mozzarella cheese, I stuff them with a light, dairy-free “ricotta.” Made from cashew cream, crumbled tofu, herbs, and lemon zest, it’s rich and flavorful. If your family is squeamish about tofu, just don’t tell them. They’ll never suspect it here.

Stuffed Shells Recipe Stuffed Shells Sauce

My Favorite Stuffed Shells Recipe

In the spirit of fall, I ditched the marinara here and opted for a bright, creamy cashew sauce. I also stuffed my shells with roasted butternut squash. This stuffed shells recipe has a few steps, but the creamy, cozy pasta & squash are totally worth the effort. Here’s how you make them:

  1. Roast the squash. Make sure to cut it into little cubes that will fit neatly inside the shells!
  2. Make the cashew cream. Blend together the cashews, water, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  3. Make the “ricotta.” Saute the spinach, squeeze out any excess water, and mix it with crumbled tofu, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup cashew cream.
  4. Cook the pasta. Don’t forget to salt the water!
  5. Stuff the shells. Fill them with generous scoops of the ricotta and a few cubes of squash.
  6. Bake the stuffed shells! Pop them in the oven for 15 minutes, and you’re ready to eat.

We really love this recipe. I hope you do too!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells Recipe

Stuffed Shells Serving Suggestions

I like to serve my stuffed shells with dollops of extra cashew cream to really take them over the top. While this stuffed shells recipe is delicious on any night, it’d be especially good as a vegetarian main course at Thanksgiving or a holiday dinner. If you’re looking for something to pair it with, try any of these simple vegetable side dishes:

And don’t forget the apple crumble for dessert!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

If you love this stuffed shells recipe…

Try my lasagna, butternut squash pasta, butternut squash soup, butternut squash curry, or roasted delicata squash next!

4.9 from 25 reviews

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This stuffed shells recipe is great for entertaining. Make it as a vegetarian main at Thanksgiving or serve it for the winter holidays!
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 4
  • 1½ cups cubed butternut squash
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 16 jumbo shells
cashew cream
  • 1½ cups raw cashews*(see note)
  • 1 cup fresh water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashew cream (from the recipe above)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the butternut squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Make the cashew cream: Blend together the drained raw cashews, fresh water, garlic, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper.
  3. Make the filling: In a medium skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach in increments, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté until all the spinach is incorporated and wilted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Squeeze out any excess liquid and chop. In a medium bowl, combine the the spinach with the crumbled tofu, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, at least ¼ teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1 cup of cashew cream. Season to taste, adding more salt and pepper as desired.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain.
  5. Assemble the shells. Spread ¼ cup of the reserved cashew cream on the bottom of an 11x7-inch baking dish. Fill each cooked shell with some of the filling and a few cubes of butternut squash, and place into the baking dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the shells, cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the oven and serve with the remaining cashew cream.
*Depending on your blender, you may want to soak the cashews in water for a few hours (or overnight) in order for them to become creamy when pureed. Drain and rinse when ready to use. If using a Vitamix blender or similar, soaking is not necessary.


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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. I love the filling of these jumbo shells! That cashew cream and butternut squash looks delicious. I’m really on the look out for fillings that don’t involve an insane amount of cheese. I’m happy you shared these!

  2. Oh my gosh, these are the most delicious things I’ve seen all day (and I’m been browsing food blogs for hours in class, haha). I love combining tofu and hummus to make a kind of tofu ricotta, and I’m sure that’s what it’s like here with cashew cream! Stuffed into pasta and I’m sold.

  3. Count me in! I’ll make this for my husband. I’ll sub full fat ricotta since we aren’t vegan and ricotta is pretty much whey protein in cheese form!

  4. Miriam from londonkitchendiaries.com

    This looks so beautiful and the cashew cream is such a great idea. Will not tell my family about the tofu either 😉
    Miriam x

  5. Kirsti from montpapier.etsy.com

    This looks amazing! I love tofu ricotta and the cashew cream and roasted butternut squash are just the icing on the cake! Definitely will be making this recipe soon 🙂
    And thanks for continuing to make great plant based recipes…been following your blog for a few months now, and absolutely love what I’ve tried!

  6. Melanie from MelanieCooks.com

    These look absolutely delicious! I love the colors! I’ll try them with ricotta cheese instead of tofu 🙂

  7. Kelley from vegetarianpdx.com

    Yum! I’d probably, oh, quadruple the garlic for our family’s tastes, though.

  8. obsessed! making ASAP these look delicious

  9. Wow, these shells are so gorgeous and sound like such an amazing dinner. Would never know they’re vegan!

  10. Kasia from katarzynakachel.blogspot.com

    Love that recipe. It looks delicious!

  11. What an absolutely delicious looking dish. I’m such a horribly picky eater but when you make food look like this, I wouldn’t even ask what’s in it! Beautiful!

  12. sissy

    the best recipe and thanks!
    happy holidays from MKE, WI!

  13. Jessica

    This looks delicious! Do you think it would freeze well? I’m 6 months pregnant and starting to save recipes to freeze for when baby comes. I’ve never made anything like the cashew cream so I’m not sure how well it would fare in the freezer.

    • Christa

      Did you try freezing this? I was trying to figure out if it Friday well, too.

  14. Tara

    It’s not often I comment on recipes I use, but this one warrants a comment. These were seriously one of the most delicious dishes I have ever cooked. Thank you for sharing!

    • jeanine

      Hi Tara – I’m so glad you enjoyed it – thank you for commenting! 🙂

  15. Ina

    Hey, this looks amazing I want to make it for my flatmates tonight, I could only find firm silken tofu at the shop- is that OK to use?

    • jeanine

      Hmm…I think that’ll make the filling too watery – there’s a big textural difference between regular firm and silken firm tofu (regular firm tofu is the kind that’s sold in the refrigerated section, and it’s more crumbly). It might work ok but I can’t say for sure without trying it.

  16. This sounds so amazing! Love dairy-free recipes that still look just as delicious! Yum!

  17. Sharon

    Can we use salted cashews rather than raw for this recipe??

    Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Sharon, no, it’s really important to use raw cashews because they have a neutral flavor in the sauce. Otherwise, your cream sauce will end up tasting very much like cashews.

      • Sharon

        Thank you! I made this for a group of friends and we all loved it! All were so surprised it was vegan! I also used gluten-free shells so all diets were covered! Knowing how much salt/pepper to add would be SO helpful because I had to keep trying and trying and trying it…

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          I’m so glad! I have to ask – where did you find gluten free jumbo shells? Thanks for the note about the salt and pepper – it’s so hard because everyone has a different taste for salty foods but I’ll try harder to measure it 🙂

        • Amy

          I would also love to know where to get gluten free shells!! I was just thinking about what i could use instead but would love actual shells!!

  18. Mary

    Made these last week. My husband and I went completely vegan a few weeks ago and I have to tell you, this is absolutely DELICIOUS. My husband’s normal response to a dish, unless it’s one of his (old) favorites like tacos, pizza, etc. is “it’s ok”. This? “This is really good!!”. Couldn’t agree more – and I used the leftover cashew cream sauce on pizza the next night and OMG soo good! Thank you for making this transition so easy!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Mary! I love hearing that – thanks for sharing!! Always great to win over the husbands with delicious vegan food.

  19. DD

    This recipe looks so delicious, but my sister is allergic to all nuts (except coconut) and has a peanut allergy as well. Any suggestions for a cashew cream substitution?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi DD, try replacing the cashews with raw sunflower seeds (or you could use regular ricotta cheese if you’re not vegan).

      • Alisa

        I accidentally bought roasted unsalted cashews. Could I use those? Or I randomly do have raw sunflower seeds. Should I use those instead?

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          Hi Alisa, it’s really really best with raw cashews. They’re necessary for the cashew cream to taste creamy but not overwhelmingly cashew-ey. Sunflower seeds could work – but the texture is more gritty and I haven’t tested the ratios specifically with this recipe. They often require more liquid to blend than cashews.

    • Isabel

      I made this today but substituted the cashew cream for some Vegan cream cheese I bought from Trader Joe’s and it turned out great! Plus it makes that step a little quicker. Overall, delicious! 🙂

  20. Pali

    This recipe looks delicious! The cashew cream looks great. Can’t wait to try this out!

  21. Ilisa

    Excellent recipe! I made this for my lunches this week with a side of asparagus. Super easy and delicious!

  22. Robbin

    Can’t wait to try this, I am gluten and dairy sensitive, I am always looking for a substitute for ricotta cheese, what can I use instead of the Tofu and I am soy sensitive too!

  23. lauren

    Could you use frozen butternut squash that is defrosted? Thanks !

  24. RJ

    Really good! The cashew cream on the bottom of the pan got a little dry as did the shells. I think maybe next time I will cover it and maybe add more cream to the bottom of a smaller pan? My daughter said “No cheese!” skeptically as I was making it, but I got an “Interesting…” when she was eating it. In teenage speak this means “Good!”

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi RJ – I’m glad you and your daughter enjoyed these – yes, I think covering might help, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil on the bottom in addition to the cashew cream. Thank you for your feedback, it’s so helpful!

  25. tuulifromestonia

    I made it for dinner yesterday and replaced cashew cream with feta cheese – amazing!

  26. Amy from amyreger.com

    Aside from the Squash, would you say the filling of cashews and herbs could be made ahead of time?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Amy – yep, you can make the cashew filling ahead of time!

  27. Sam Jones from happyfoodaholic.com

    Super easy and delicious! Healthy and looks very appetizing! Can’t wait to try all of them! Cheers!! 

  28. Nicole

    Do you think this can be made ahead/night before and then baked in the oven ?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Nicole, I haven’t tried so I can’t say for sure, but I think it would be fine. At the very least, the components could all be made in advance and assembled just before baking. Let me know if you give it a try!

  29. Sarah from doveish.com

    Made it for the first time tonight. So easy and yet soooooo delicious!

  30. Jenna

    These were great! The store was out of butternut squash so I subbed in acorn squash and it was still delicious 🙂 YAY vegan thanksgiving!!

  31. Chanel

    Absolutely delicious ! This recipe will be added to my rotation so yummy and filling.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      So glad you loved this one!

  32. Sheila Cassidy

    New to vegan cooking. Am concerned these shells would be very dry on the outside after baking without any sauce……..I guess my question is, are they ? if so what would be the solution? Thank you. Your cookbook and website are both besutiful!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Sheila – they do get a little crisp on the outside. I personally don’t mind it but if you want to avoid it you can bake the dish covered with foil. Also note that the cook time here is only 15 minutes – since there’s not cheese to melt on top, you just want to cook until everything is warmed through. I serve these with the remaining sauce on top after they bake, but you could slather it on before baking if you like. (It just doesn’t bake like normal cream). Hope that helps!

  33. There are so many things I love about this recipe. All my favorite ingredients, pasta, butternut squash and cashews! I always try to eat lots of cashews for extra magnesium which stops me getting leg cramps. This is so delicious. I can see why it was a year favorite!

  34. Lauren

    This recipe looks amazing, but I’m allergic to Cashews. Do you recommend another sauce to place on top?
    Thank you!!

      • Lauren

        Hi Jeanine,
        Oh it does!! Thank you so much, enjoy your Sunday! ☺️

  35. claire

    made this much less vegan with spicy Italian sausage and full-fat ricotta. this blend of flavors was amazing and it really wasn’t difficult to make. my roommates were all really impressed. 10/10 would recommend!!

  36. Chelsea

    Absolutely delicious, just finished eating it!! I made it for my family today without telling them it was vegan, and I only revealed it after they had all tasted it and told me how amazing it was!! I added a bit of paprika to the filing, and probably doubled the chili flakes for extra spice. I will 100% recommend this for anyone and everyone, vegan or not because it is just too good! Thank you for the great recipe that has instantly become a favourite!

  37. Catherine De La Paz

    Any suggestion on what can be used instead of tofu?

    • Christa

      Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta you can buy

  38. Sabrina B.

    interesting swap for ricotta, will have to try it out and love the pasta “shells”, I forget to use them in dishes, so nice touch with all of the rest of these ingredients, thank you!

  39. Erica G.

    Just wondering, could I use veggie broth instead of water in the cashew cream?

  40. Nikky

    WOW!!! I just made this recipe – unbelievable!! If I hadn’t made it myself I would have never guessed these were vegan. The filling is creamy and rich and the whole dish is filling and satisfying! I didn’t measure out the lemon juice for the cashew cream and just used the juice of 1 lemon, which I think was pretty close and it came out great. Thanks for another VERY yummy recipe Jeanine!

  41. Paige from Www.paigesofnothing.blogspot.com

    I have been so excited to try this recipe but cannot find jumbo shells anywhere! I live in Los Angeles and have been to two Whole Foods, one is the biggest Whole Foods location in LA! Super weird :/ because it seems pretty standard…anyone else have trouble finding jumbo shells? Or any tips where to buy?


    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Paige – I couldn’t find jumbo shells at Whole Foods (or any specialty stores) in Austin – I had to go to a regular grocery store and they were right there in the pasta section. Hope that helps!

  42. Erin

    I made these for the fam last night, Jeanine, and they were fabulous. They tasted delicious and looked very fancy for something that didn’t require that much work. I’ll definitely be making it for company sometime soon. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Erin – I’m so glad these were a hit! Thank you so much for coming back to let me know!!

  43. Molly

    Outstanding! I followed the recipe pretty much precisely and these turned out perfectly. I served this glorious dish to my boyfriend’s non-vegan family when I met them for the first time and they absolutely loved it. Thanks for helping me make a great first impression!

  44. Erin

    Hi! I want to make these for thanksgiving. Can I make the filling the day before and bake the day of?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Erin – yep, you can! Happy Thanksgiving!

  45. Sam

    This was wonderful! I subbed the cashews in the sauce with cottage cheese (less calories, more protein), and it turned out beautifully. This was my first time making stuffed shells, and it’s definitely one for the books.

  46. Ana María Rodríguez

    Oh me encanta se ve rica la haré pronto tel anacardos les llamamos semillas de cajuiles

  47. MJ

    Made it and loved it 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

  48. Peggi Smith

    Just stumbled onto this recipe. I am making cashew cream in a vitamix. It’s so watery, is it supposed to be that liquidy?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Peggy, it should be pretty thick – are you sure you drained the cashews before adding them? To thicken, at this point, I would add more cashews until it’s the consistency of alfredo sauce.

  49. Peggi Smith

    As we let it sit, it thickened up quite a bit. I think my daughter may have added 5 or 6 more cashews. We didn’t soak the cashews because we were using a vitamix, therefore, we didn’t drain them.
    End result – We really enjoyed the recipe! It was really good with the butternut squash.
    We might put an Italian spin next time with marinara sauce on bottom and drizzled on top with some fresh parsley. Thank you for your response!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      oh phew, perfect! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe and that it all worked out 🙂 It is delicious with marinara as well!

  50. Kendell

    This was amazing! My husband and I aren’t vegan, just looking for healthier recipes. We aren’t big tofu fans, so we swapped it for roasted cauliflower. It added a small crunch and was so good!. We will definitely be making these again!

  51. Amy

    Aren’t shells made with eggs?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Amy, I’ve bought various brands and haven’t seen eggs on the ingredient lists… of course always read the labels of your pasta before you buy it to be sure.

  52. Stacia

    I just made this recipe for my book club, even the non-vegetarians loved it!! I will definitely make it again. I made everything ahead of time, even assembled the shells and then threw it in the oven right before the party started. Turned out awesome!!!

  53. Kelsie

    I was skeptical about this recipe but, oh my gosh, it was so good! This was my first experience with cashew cream and I am obsessed! This was so easy to make and seriously SO delicious

  54. Cindy

    This looks amazing! I’m really trying to watch my health these days. Any chance you know the nutritional facts?

  55. JoAnn Tobey

    This looks wonderful and the comments are all very positive. We have a nut allergy in the family so the cashew cream is a problem for us. Can you recommend a nut-free alternative, please?

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.