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 86 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.

 

156 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Darin
    11.26.2020

    5 stars
    I tried this today and it was very easy for a person who really doesn’t cook! The flavors were amazing!

  2. Megan
    11.25.2020

    Hi, is the tofu supposed to be pressed ?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.25.2020

      Hi Megan, nope, it’s not necessary here.

  3. Taryn
    11.25.2020

    Can this be made ahead the night before? Or is it meant to be made and served right away?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.25.2020

      Hi Taryn, the pasta will start to dry out in the fridge – I’d assemble it the morning that you’re going to serve it if you can and bake it as you’re ready to serve.

  4. Iralyn
    11.22.2020

    5 stars
    Easy and delicious! Even our toddler loved it! I used ricotta in the filling because I had some open that I needed to use, but I could see tofu being equally great. Also, I did a tad extra filling/squash and was able to fill 22 shells. I’m guessing the exact recipe might have filled 20 shells. Will definitely make again!

  5. Sara
    11.16.2020

    5 stars
    My family loved it! Half of them aren’t vegan but they didn’t miss a thang. Thank you for the satisfying recipe!

  6. Sara
    10.19.2020

    5 stars
    We absolutely loved this dish!! So yummy!! Will make again and again.

  7. Lauren
    09.12.2020

    5 stars
    Really loved this recipe! I may add a little lemon zest to the cashew sauce next time or red pepper. The filling rocked

    • Lauren
      09.12.2020

      (For the sauce that tops the shells after)

  8. Maria
    09.10.2020

    5 stars
    Hi Jeanine and Jack! I wanted to share that I cooked this today for my daughter who is vegan, and she absolutely loved it. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely recipe. It was a superb success!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.12.2020

      Hi Maria, I’m so thrilled that she loved the shells! Thanks for coming back to let me know 🙂

  9. Jamie
    09.05.2020

    5 stars
    My whole family loved these! The combination of the filling and butternut
    squash, with the cashew cream drizzled on top, was delicious. Thanks for the great recipe. We will definitely make these again.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.12.2020

      Yay! I’m so glad they were a hit!

  10. Donelle
    08.29.2020

    5 stars
    A friend made these for me last week, so amazing! Just had friends over, i am the only vegan, total raves about this dish with requests for the recipe! So delicious, da bomb!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.30.2020

      Yay! I’m so glad it was a hit.

  11. Allison Lovat
    07.22.2020

    About to make this but couldn’t find the shells in the store. Do you think it would be possible to make this like a lasagna with the large flat noodles and layering instead? Thanks!

  12. Annie
    06.16.2020

    5 stars
    (Forgot to leave the rating on my last comment)

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.12.2020

      thank you, you’re the best 🙂

  13. Annie
    06.16.2020

    I never leave reviews, but my family usually refuses to eat anything without meat and didn’t even notice with this recipe because they loved it SO much! I left out the tofu so I could fit in more of the yummy filling and butternut squash. I also doubled the recipe so that we’d have more leftovers. Without a doubt, this is a recipe that will be added to my regular rotation list. A definite HIT!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.12.2020

      I’m so glad they were such a hit with your family!

  14. Petra
    04.01.2020

    5 stars
    I made this the other night & it was great! The cashews made such a great base for the “ricotta”. The squash added a wonderful sweetness. I will definitely make this again. This has become my go to cookbook.

  15. Justine
    01.15.2020

    5 stars
    Just made this and it was delicious!! I made 1.5x the sauce, added nutritional yeast, and subbed sunflower seeds for cashews (much cheaper and work just as well!) and poured it over top the shells before baking them off. Added extra lemon juice and garlic to the leftover sauce and made a kale caesar salad out of it. A DEVINE meal! The butternut squash adds so much to this dish. Little bites of sweet caramelized heaven. Don’t be shy with the seasoning in the tofu ricotta mixture. So so good 👌

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.17.2020

      Hi Justine, I’m glad you loved it!

  16. suzi
    01.08.2020

    Waiting to try this and truth be told I twisted your recipe up a bit. I had to use what I had on hand – so manicotti it was. Then I had to figure out how to get this stuff in those little tubes!! I blended the squash with the filling and piped it all in there. I subbed kale for spinach and carefully had that in the noodles prior to piping… just coming out of the oven… can’t wait to try!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.10.2020

      I hope you enjoyed it!

  17. Erin
    12.03.2019

    5 stars
    I have had this recipe pinned and have been dying to try for quite some time now and finally did tonight. Hands down amazing. I left out the additional salt in each step (trying to keep lower sodium and heart healthy for a family member) and it was still delish. Added a bit more garlic (in the tofu and while sautéing the spinach) to off-set any flavor loss. I also used silken rather than firm tofu and it was nice and creamy. I’m allergic to dairy and this really hit the spot. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.08.2019

      Hi Erin, I’m so glad you loved it!

  18. Hailey
    11.19.2019

    4 stars
    Such a tasty recipe!

    I modified it slightly- we don’t eat tofu, so replaced it with feta. Agree with comments below that ricotta would be good as well. I also used frozen spinach and warmed this with all ingredients of the filling together in a skillet.

    I’m curious to know if it freezes well, so saved half to test out. The only thing I think would improve this dish is more sauce on top. Maybe more of the cashew cream, or perhaps even a runny pesto.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.21.2019

      Hi Hailey, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I spoon extra cashew cream on top – marinara would be delicious and I love your pesto idea too!

    • Suzi Reznicek
      08.31.2020

      I’m curious whether it turned out well after freezing. I want to make it for a large-ish family gathering this weekend, and making ahead would be ideal.

  19. Jasmine
    10.18.2019

    Hi! I’m wondering if this doesn’t need to be vegan, so I just sub the tofu part with full fat ricotta or do I still want to make the cashew cream? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.18.2019

      Hi Jasmine, you can do the ricotta filling without cashew cream (it would be too watery with it). But you may want to still use the cashew cream as the sauce… unless you had a béchamel type sauce recipe you’d like to use instead. Or you could always top them with marinara – not the same look, but they taste good.

      Either way, here’s a ricotta filling recipe that I like: https://www.loveandlemons.com/no-noodle-sweet-potato-lasagna/

      Hope that helps!

  20. JoAnn Tobey
    10.15.2019

    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.