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. 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

While I often use a marinara sauce with my stuffed shells, in the spirit of fall, I opted for a luscious, creamy cashew sauce. I also stuffed my shells with roasted butternut squash. This 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 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 these cozy casserole-type recipes next:

Or try one of these favorite squash recipes:

For more vegan recipes, check out this post with 85 Best Vegan Recipes.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

rate this recipe:
4.98 from 80 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 55 mins
Serves 4
This stuffed shells recipe is great for entertaining. Make it as a vegetarian main at Thanksgiving or serve it for the winter holidays!

Ingredients

cashew cream

  • cups raw cashews*, see note
  • 1 cup fresh water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

filling

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashew cream, from the recipe above
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Make the cashew cream: Blend together the drained raw cashews, fresh water, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
  • 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 1/4 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1 cup of cashew cream. Season to taste, adding more salt and pepper as desired.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain.
  • 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.

Notes

*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.

 

146 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Audey
    11.16.2021

    Hi- Can I substitute gluten free penne for the shells? I can’t find gluten free shells

  2. Anna
    10.18.2021

    5 stars
    So tasty! Glad I gave it a shot. I had a little stuffing over but otherwise worked out perectly. Used 16 shells

  3. Christian Tulip
    10.17.2021

    5 stars
    I was actually able to make these for dinner. I was concerned about stuffing the shells, but it was perfect. Was I supposed to squeeze some of the water out of the tofu? I did a little, but I noticed my “ricotta” wasn’t as thick as yours. I believe I am slowly becoming a vegan. Thank. you for your delicious recipes.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.17.2021

      Hi Christian, I’m so glad you loved them! I don’t squeeze the water, I just pat the block dry a little bit with a towel. If you want a thicker texture, you could absolutely just blot more water off. Or you could get the type of tofu that’s sold shrink wrapped but not in a tub of water. Sometimes it’s the type labeled “high protein” tofu, and it’s a bit more dry.

  4. Alyx
    10.03.2021

    5 stars
    This is a great fall recipe! My local market was out of jumbo shells so I subbed them for a large rigatoni that I had every intention to stuff. That ultimately did not end up happening so the filling ended up as more or a topping/sauce and it was still fantastic. Cant wait to try this again with the shells. I served this with a goat cheese and apple winter salad and a side of roasted honey mustard green beans and cauliflower.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.06.2021

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  5. Paula Kleiman
    10.01.2021

    5 stars
    Fabulous recipe so easy and delicious to make. I modified slightly – I sauteed 1/2 white onion and then added the spinach and also sprinkled a touch of grated nutmeg and the flavor was outstanding. Also either my pasta shells were very large, but I had to make another batch of the filling because it was not enough filling for 16-20 shells, but at least I have leftovers now. Yay! Thank you for such an outstanding recipe. Taste just like ricotta spinach filling. Incredible!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.06.2021

      I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I must have filled mine less.

  6. Tristen
    09.21.2021

    Will this freeze well?

    • Debra
      11.17.2021

      Did you get an answer to this question re freezing? I would like to make ahead of my guests arriving for thanksgiving

      • Jeanine Donofrio
        11.17.2021

        Hi Debra, I haven’t tried freezing this one, so I’m not exactly sure how it’ll go.

  7. Teairra Ritman
    09.13.2021

    5 stars
    Tip!! I boiled my cashews in veggie broth and let them sit for 15 minutes. I used a 1/2 cup of cashew broth & a 1/2 cup of water to blend! It was so flavorful and blended extremely well and smooth.

  8. Dais.
    08.30.2021

    So I tried dicing the squash 😬
    Are we supposed to cook the squash whole first then dice or dice it then cook?

    I also may have picked out a bad one. I’ve never touched a butter nut squash so I just picked one..it’s actually harder than I anticipated..

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.30.2021

      Hi Daisy, you chop the uncooked squash into small cubes, measure 1 1/2 cups of it, and roast it in step 1.

      If it’s too difficult to cut, you can soften it for a few minutes in the oven or microwave first.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Diana
    07.30.2021

    5 stars
    This dish was the star of the dinner party. I was able to make it ahead then warmed it up just before serving. I had vegans, vegetarians and lactose intolerant friends at the table and they all enjoyed the stuffed shells. Even the carnivores enjoyed them! I will make again.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.31.2021

      I’m so glad they were such a hit!

      • Diana
        08.01.2021

        5 stars
        ME TOO!!! I was so worried that I wouldn’t have enough food….and that the recipes that I chose to make would be appropriate for everyone (carnivores included). This recipe made a plentiful amount. Everyone had a portion and my neighbor said the next day, “Diana, the food that you made last night was AMAZING!” Thanks for a great recipe, Jeanine.

        • Jeanine Donofrio
          08.02.2021

          Aw, I’m so happy to hear it was such a hit!

  10. Ladydre
    02.11.2021

    4 stars
    I made this today. My husband called me from work to tell me it was delicious. I will definitely make again. My only thing with the recipe was that the cashew cream sauce only yielded 1 cup. So I plan to add more ingredients probably 1/2 the recipe next time.

  11. Mary
    02.01.2021

    Any idea of the nutrition information here?

  12. Kayla
    01.28.2021

    5 stars
    I made this but subbed sweet potatoes for butternut squash because I prefer the texture. Was gray. My husband thought I used ricotta. Much yo his surprise there was no cholesterol in this meal.

  13. sahana
    12.01.2020

    5 stars
    this was amazing! i used different shells of the pasta but i lovee it!

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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.