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Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? They are little pockets filled with cheesy goodness. Most commonly though, when you think of stuffed shells you think of the traditional recipe of ricotta, a red sauce and sometimes sausage or another type of meat. Because it is fall, we decided eliminate the red sauce and sausage and add butternut squash, pancetta and a light brown butter sauce into the mix. With a couple of other special ingredients, these shells were to die for. It’s quick and easy, and if it’s just two in the household you’ll have leftovers for a week!
Well I lied, we are still off of our Bridgeport kick, but when we were creating this dish, there was only one beer that we could pair with it: Stone’s Vertical Epic 2011 Edition. I personally think this is the best beer pairing yet. Zach may disagree, but who cares…we will ask him later =). Stone puts out a new edition of their Vertical Epic Ale every year, and they always release them on a special date. Last year was 11/11/11. This year will be 12/12/12 – which by the way we are super excited for. Vertical Epic never disappoints! For our pairing we used the 10/10/10. I’m sorry if this is getting confused. If you need further explanation feel free to message us =). This beer takes the aromas and tastes of white wine and beer and puts it in one special bottle. I think that’s why this beer pairs so well with this dish. If I were to pair it with a wine, I would have chosen a chardonnay. You get hints of chardonnay in this beer and it is just amazing; so smooth and sultry. If you don’t have a bottle of this lying around, wait until the 12/12/12 edition comes out and make the recipe then. I’m sure that Stone will blow our minds away yet again.
This recipe combines so many great ingredients into one. I have to be honest. I have never actually made your traditional stuffed shells recipe. Sure I’ve had them many a time, but never actually stuffed them! They are surprisingly not too bad to make! Sure they are a bit time consuming, but you get a groove going and time goes by in a snap of a finger.
We used a blend of roasted butternut squash, ricotta, parmesan cheese, lots and lots of garlic (of course), pancetta, carrots, spinach and a blend of herbs and spice. We topped it off with a brown butter sauce perfumed with special herbs right out of our herb garden.
The only thing I would have changed about the recipe I’m going to provide for you is the amount of lemon. If you love lemon then I would stay with the recipe, but if you are not a huge fan, then I would tone it down by about half. Zach doesn’t LOVE lemon (I may have mentioned before), so I think the recipe was a little lemony for his taste, but I thought it was the perfect amount. Adjust the amounts accordingly, the measuring doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not baking now are you!?
I hope you guys found this dish as enjoyable to make and eat as I did, and if you don’t, well just keep it to yourself. Hehe just kidding, let me know! Always looking for ways to improve our great recipes!
- 1 package jumbo shells
- 1 butternut squash, skinned and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup pancetta, diced
- 1 cup spinach, fresh
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (stick and a half)
- 4 sage leaves, fresh
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- On a baking sheet, combine the butternut squash, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, bring a stock pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shells and boil over high heat for about 9 minutes.
- Drain the shells and set aside until ready to stuff.
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crispy and brown. Set this aside once cooked onto a plate lined with a paper towel to get rid of any excess grease. Don’t get rid of the grease in the sauté pan.
- In the same sauté pan, using the pancetta grease, sauté the spinach over medium heat until wilty and aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a separate sauté pan, cook the carrots in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Remove from heat once tender.
- In a large bowl combine the ricotta, butternut squash, pancetta, spinach, carrots, parmesan, salt, pepper, marjoram, oregano, lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Using a spatula, fold the ingredients over one another until they are just combined.
- Now, start stuffing your shells. Stuff about a tablespoon or two into each shell and set in a well buttered 9×11 baking dish.
- Place, covered, in the oven at 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the covering and bake for another 10 minutes.
- While the shells are baking, prepare your butter sauce. In another sauté pan combine the butter and sage leaves. Cook over low heat stirring the butter every couple of minutes until you get that toasty brown butter smell. This can take a couple of times to get perfect if you’ve never done it before, but you’ll eventually get it right. When you get a burnt aroma from the butter, you know you’ve gone too far, so watch over it carefully!
- Remove the shells from the oven and drizzle the brown butter over top (less the sage leaves). Sprinkle some parmesan on top and enjoy!