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BUTTERNUT SQUASH STUFFED SHELLS (VEGAN)

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with homemade vegan ricotta cheese, spinach, roasted butternut squash sauce is simply amazing and so easy to make! Plus, no one will ever know they’re dairy-free!

up close, side angle view of a casserole with freshly made butternut squash stuffed shells.

Meet the new love of my life! These Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are hands down the BEST!

Why you might ask? Well they’re:

  • A perfect blend of sweet and savory. Butternut squash has a slight sweetness and the creamy tofu or cashew ricotta is salty and savory.
  • Great for both sophisticated and casual dining, and pairs well with a simple salad and vinaigrette. Add a glass of water or wine and enjoy!
  • It can be made ahead and is freezer friendly.
  • A nice twist on these delicious Spinach & Ricotta Vegan Stuffed Shells!

So without further ado, let’s get to the good stuff!

top down view of the ingredients needed to make vegan butternut squash stuffed shells.

Ingredients You’ll Need

There’s only a handful of ingredients needed for this recipe, here’s a quick rundown of the list with tips and substitution ideas for your best stuffed shells.

  • Butternut Squash – Use a 3 – 4 lb. butternut squash. For ease, you can always pick up pre-cut squash in the produce dept. You’ll want about 6 cups – 4 cups for the sauce and 2 cups to stuff.
  • Cashew Ricotta – We’ll be using this easy cashew ricotta recipe which uses just a handful of ingredients. It’s totally amazing and will satisfy everyone! For nut allergies, use this delicious tofu ricotta!
  • Spinach – Use fresh or frozen. I used about 2 – 3 ounces of fresh, roughly chopped. You can use a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach, just be sure to let it thaw and squeeze it well to remove the water.
  • Jumbo Shells – You’ll need at least 18 jumbo shells, but it’s always best to make a few more just in case one falls apart.
  • Thyme – Use fresh or dried thyme. Feel free to change up the herb with sage or oregano.
  • Garlic – You’ll find garlic in the ricotta so if you want to skip this clove of garlic, you won’t miss it much. Or you can use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in its place.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – Adds a little heat and pairs well with the sweetness of the squash, adjust the amount to suit your taste.
  • Salt – My all-time favorite salt is pink mineral salt (affiliate link) which naturally contains essential minerals and trace elements the body needs. It’s delicious and a little goes a long way.
  • Oil – Use your favorite oil, we’ll just be using it to roast the butternut squash.
  • Liquids – I simply used water for the butternut squash sauce and it was delicious! Feel free to use broth or a combo of broth and water.

side by side photos of butternut squash cubed and pureed.

How To Make Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Making butternut squash stuffed shells requires a few steps, but moves along pretty easily and is complete in under 1 hour.

  • Prep and roast the squash. Prep the squash, cutting into 1/2 inch cubes, and roast for 30 minutes.
  • Make the vegan ricotta. While squash is roasting, make the vegan ricotta and mix in the spinach.
  • Cook the pasta. Pasta can be made while butternut squash is roasting, drain.
  • Make the butternut squash sauce. Once the squash has cooled a few minutes, make the butternut squash sauce using 4 cups of squash, reserving the rest to stuff the shells. Sauce can be made in the same food processor/blender the ricotta was made in or use a stick blender and the pot you cooked the pasta in.
  • Stuff the shells. Scoop one heaped tablespoon of ricotta filling into each shell along with 3 pieces of butternut squash. Use a 12 inch round or 9×13 rectangular dish.
  • Bake. Spread the sauce into the bottom of baking dish or casserole, place stuffed shells on top, cover and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until warmed through.

As you can see it’s pretty straight forward and easy to make. Plus, it’s worth every bit of effort – trust me you’re going to love it!

top down view of a casserole with freshly made butternut squash stuffed shells.

Can You Freeze Stuffed Shells Before Baking?

Yes! Simply prepare the stuffed shells according to the recipe up until baking, store in a freezer safe container (affiliate link) or cover tightly with cling wrap and foil, and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake as directed adding and extra 10 – 15 minutes to ensure it warms through.

How Long Can You Keep Stuffed Shells in the Refrigerator?

  • Make ahead: When making ahead, butternut squash stuffed shells can be filled and kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in advance. When ready to bake, simply place in the oven and bake as usual.
  • Cooked: Cooked, or leftover, stuffed pasta shells can be stored in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container, for up to 5 days.

How to Re-Heat Stuffed Shells

Reheat leftover stuffed pasta shells by putting them into a shallow oven save dish, cover, and bake at 350 degrees F. until heated through, about 15 minutes. Remove cover and serve.

Serving Suggestions

This sweet and savory butternut squash stuffed shells can stand alone as a meal, but is also nice with a little something extra on the side. Here are a few of my favorite options:

top down view of butternut squash stuffed shells on a small plate with fork.

More Recipes You’ll Love

If you try this butternut squash stuffed shells recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH STUFFED SHELLS

Celebrate the autumn with this easy Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells recipe featuring cashew ricotta cheese, spinach and roasted butternut squash!

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 45 min
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 18 shells, 3 per serving 1x
  • Category: Entree, Pasta
  • Method: Oven, Puree, Boil
  • Cuisine: Vegan, American-Italian

Ingredients

Scale
  • 34 lbs. butternut squash (about 56 cups), seeds removed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 12 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cashew ricotta or tofu ricotta
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach (about 23 oz.) or 1 package (10oz.) frozen, thawed and squeezed
  • 2022 jumbo shells
  • mineral salt, to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Prep and roast the squash: Prep the squash, cutting into 1/2 inch cubes. Place squash on baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle of salt. Place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Once done let squash cool a few minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make the cashew ricotta: While the squash is roasting, make the vegan ricotta and mix in the spinach. Set aside.

Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Make the butternut squash sauce: In a food processor or high speed blender, add 4 cups of the roasted squash, reserving the rest to stuff the shells. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, salt and 1 cup of water, blend until smooth, adding more water as needed to thin. I used about 1 1/2 cups, you don’t want it too thin, but not too thick either, use your best judgement. Alternately, Sauce can be made using a stick blender and the pot you cooked the pasta in.

Layer and stuff the shells: Place the sauce at the bottom of your baking dish, spreading it from side to side to coat the entire bottom. Scoop one heaped tablespoon of ricotta filling into each shell along with 3 pieces of butternut squash. Ricotta will fill about 18 shells. Use a 12 inch round or 9×13 rectangular dish.

Bake: Cover and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until warmed through.

Serves 6 (3 shells per serving).

Store: Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 days, in a covered container. For longer storage, keep in the freezer in freezer safe containers (affiliate link) for 2 – 3 months.

Notes

In place of thyme, change it up using sage or oregano.

RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT: I switch between my Silpat or these parchment liners for lining this rimmed baking sheet. For baking the shells I used this versatile Lodge cast iron casserole (affiliate links). For more of my favorite cooking tools, shop my kitchen essentials!

Keywords: butternut squash stuffed shells

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10 Comments

  1. My family doesn’t eat vegan, but I made this dish for them to convince them vegan foods are equally delicious….this recipe helped me succeed! LOVE. I made it with my dad, too, so it was a fun bonding time. Goes so well with the cashew ricotta cheese.

    1. Holy this looks simply amazing. Cashew ricotta, who would have thought? I can’t wait to try this dish.

  2. I’m trying to switch to a whole food plant based diet but finding it hard to locate recipes that I truly love. This is one that is spot-on! I halved the recipe to make 10 shells, made the tofu ricotta, and added fresh minced garlic to the ricotta. Simply delicious!

  3. What size baking dish is shown here with the 18 shells? Thanks.

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Hi Sue, I’d say it’s a 12 inch round, the link to it can be found in the recipe card notes. You can also use a 9×13 for 18 shells. Hope that helps, I’ll add it in the recipe too. Enjoy!

      1. Thanks Julie. I did see the link to the baking dish and will order one. I’m going to make this recipe for a plant based potluck next weekend. My sister shared your recipe with me and says it is so good,

        1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

          Sounds wonderful, I am sure everyone will love it! If you need anything else, just ask. :)

  4. I did some alternations to this recipe due to my BF being allergic to all kinds of nuts. So I swapped the cashew ricotta for a mixture of oat based cheese spread and oat based creme fraiche, turned out to be delicious and with a great texture.
    I also swapped the pasta shells for pasta cannelloni that I stuffed with the ricotta/spinach mixture.
    I also topped the dish off with some roasted sunflower seeds.
    Thank you for the inspiration and a great recipe!

  5. Karen Gillingham says:

    Hi! I love all your recipe and looking forward to making some for holidays! Do you know where I can purchase large gluten free shells! ?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      I’ve never seen them in stores, but you can order them online: Jumbo Shells

      Please use know how the recipe goes you! Enjoy :)

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