Butternut squash stuffed shells are the ultimate fall comfort food! Filled with creamy spinach "ricotta," this recipe is an all-time fan favorite.
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.
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:
- Roast the squash. Make sure to cut it into little cubes that will fit neatly inside the shells!
- Make the cashew cream. Blend together the cashews, water, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- 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.
- Cook the pasta. Don’t forget to salt the water!
- Stuff the shells. Fill them with generous scoops of the ricotta and a few cubes of squash.
- 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!
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:
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Simple Lemon Green Beans
- Roasted Beet Salad
- Simple Roasted Beets with Citrus
- Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Zest
- any of these salads
And don’t forget the apple crumble for dessert!
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
- 1½ cups cubed butternut squash
- extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 16 jumbo shells
- 1½ cups raw cashews*, see note
- 1 cup fresh water
- 1 garlic clove
- 3½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 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
- 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.
I am very proud to say that this was my first vegan home cooked dish and it was amazing!! I learned so much while making this. I was surprised to learn that a lot of store bought noodles do not have egg in them! I learned that cashew cream is not nearly as daunting as I thought. I learned that tofu tastes like whatever you season it with. This dish had such great flavor and so many wonderful textures. I couldn’t find shells so I had to use lasagna noodles and roll them but it was seriously so good. Thank you!! I will not only be eating the leftovers for the rest of the week but I will definitely make this again.
I’m so glad you loved the making the recipe and it’s vegan components! I love to use cashew cream as a vegan alternative and yes, tofu can be so good if it’s seasoned/prepared well!
Are shells made with eggs?
We are new to the vegan world and just trying to figure out recipes. This sounds delicious. Our biggest challenge in eating vegan is that we are also a nut-free household due to a severe allergy in the family. Do you have recommendations on a standard replacement for cashews?
I made this and it was a huge hit. My non vegan husband picked it out for me and he loved it over his non vegan dish of the night. My question. Is, could I use manicotti noodles instead of the shells and if so would I need to cook then first like the shells? I’ve seen several manicotti dish that do not require cooking the noodles first so that’s why I’m asking :-). Thanks for the awesome dish!!
Hi Alice, I’m so glad you loved it! I would stay away from no-cook noodles since the cooking time of this recipe isn’t as long as a traditional baked manicotti with cheese might be.
I made this and it was a huge hot. My non vegan husband picked it out for me and he loved it over his non vegan dish of the night. My question. Is, could I use manicotti noodles instead of the shells and if so would I need to cook then first like the shells? I’ve seen several manicotti dish that do not require cooking the noodles first so that’s why I’m asking :-). Thanks for the awesome dish!!
Just dropped in to say that the filling for this recipe has now become a staple in my kitchen for vegan sandwiches! I use either pita bread or Naan and either fill the pita with the filling (and some extra greens and/or cubes of butternut squash), or spread the filling onto toasted Naan. It’s an amazing lunch. Thanks again, Jeanine, for sharing your love of cooking with the rest of us!
Can you use a store bought cashew cream option? Like a cashew based vegan cream cheese?
Hi Lynne, I haven’t tried, so I’m not sure. It is easy (and probably less expensive) to make your own cashew cream.
Hi- Can I substitute gluten free penne for the shells? I can’t find gluten free shells
Hi Audey, here’s another butternut squash pasta that can use any type of pasta shape: https://www.loveandlemons.com/butternut-squash-pasta/
So tasty! Glad I gave it a shot. I had a little stuffing over but otherwise worked out perectly. Used 16 shells
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.
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.
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.
I’m so glad you loved it!
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!
I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I must have filled mine less.
Will this freeze well?
Did you get an answer to this question re freezing? I would like to make ahead of my guests arriving for thanksgiving
I did not
Hi Debra, I haven’t tried freezing this one, so I’m not exactly sure how it’ll go.
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.
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..
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!
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.
I’m so glad they were such a hit!
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.
Aw, I’m so happy to hear it was such a hit!
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.
Any idea of the nutrition information here?
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.
this was amazing! i used different shells of the pasta but i lovee it!