These Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are filled with turkey sausage, kale & red onion, then smothered in butternut squash sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Ingredients in this pasta
Here's what you need for this recipe:
- olive oil
- turkey sausage
- red onion
- butternut squash
- parmesan cheese
- large pasta shells
- mozzarella cheese
How to make stuffed shells
Here's how to make these delicious shells:
- Roast butternut squash for 20 minutes.
- Saute turkey sausage, kale and red onions in a skillet.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and add to a greased 9×13 casserole dish.
- Remove squash from the oven and blend with milk, parmesan cheese and salt & pepper in a blender.
- Add turkey sausage filling to shells
- Top shells with butternut squash puree and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!
- Olive oil – This is just to roast the squash, so use any light cooking oil you prefer.
- Turkey sausage – Skip a step and start with bulk turkey sausage or even just ground turkey. To keep it spicy, you can also use pork or Italian sausage.
- Red onion – Use yellow or white onions instead – they will add a slightly sharper onion flavor.
- Kale – You can substitute any type of sturdy greens like spinach, swiss chard, or collard greens for the kale.
- Butternut squash – Use pumpkin, pre-cut butternut squash or acorn squash instead.
- Milk – Since this is to make the puree, use your preferred unsweetened milk alternative, coconut milk or vegetable or chicken broth.
- Parmesan cheese – Parmesan’s tanginess really balances the sweetness of the squash. Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese work just as well.
- Pasta shells – Shells hold so much goodness, but you can stuff cooked manicotti instead if you prefer.
- Mozzarella cheese – Any melty cheese like Swiss, provolone, or cheddar will make a great topping for these shells.
Making this recipe vegetarian
You can leave the meat out of these and still make them healthy and filling. Just replace the sausage with sauteed sliced mushrooms and/or roasted vegetables of your choice. You can also just use the kale and red onions and then mix them with ricotta cheese.
More filling ideas
- Broccoli and sausage: Chop up cooked broccoli and add it to the sausage mixture after it is cooked.
- Butternut squash and ricotta: Replace the milk and parmesan cheese with 2 cups of ricotta.
- Dinner leftovers: Use cooked squash or leftover sweet potatoes for the puree. You can even remove the marshmallow topping from sweet potato casserole and use that!
- Meat: Substitute sausage with leftover shredded turkey or chicken and some stuffing.
- Veggies: Chop extra Brussels sprouts and use them instead of the kale. Add cranberries for some tanginess. Top with gravy or cheese.
What you can make ahead
It’s easy to prep some of the ingredients before you put the shells together to bake.
Prepare and freeze the butternut squash puree, or refrigerate the puree up to 2 days in advance. Sauté the sausage and kale mixture and freeze it in freezer-safe storage bags or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days in advance.
If you want to prepare the shells completely, fill them and put them in a baking dish tightly covered with foil. Keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Bake as usual when you’re ready.
These pre-stuffed shells are also good for freeze for a future freezer meal! Simply pop into the oven and bake for 60-90 minutes from frozen.
Storing and reheating
Cooked, stuffed pasta shells can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.
To reheat them, put them in a shallow oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 F until heated through – about 20 minutes.
For single servings, place them in a microwave-safe dish and add a little extra cheese on top. Cover and microwave on medium heat for 1-2 minutes and heated through.
Freezing stuffed shells
You can prepare the shells and freeze them before you bake them or freeze them after you bake them.
To freeze before baking, prepare the stuffed shells up until baking. Cover a freezer-safe container tightly with cling wrap and foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.
To bake and then freeze, let the shells cool to room temperature before covering and freezing.
Reheat by thawing overnight in the fridge or cook directly from frozen in a 350 F oven. Thawed stuffed shells will take about 30-45 minutes to reheat; frozen shells will take about 60-90 minutes.
More butternut squash recipes
Meal prep tools for this recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on storing the leftovers
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb turkey sausage, casings removed
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 2 cups kale, chopped
- 1 small butternut squash, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
- 1 lb large pasta shells
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Add butternut squash to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and add to a greased 9x13 casserole dish.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Squeeze turkey sausage out of casings, then add to skillet and break up with a spoon. Cook for 3-4 minutes until browned, then add red onion, sauteeing another 2 minutes until onions soften. Stir in kale and season mixture with salt & pepper, cooking another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and divide mixture among cooked pasta shells.
- Remove squash from the oven and blend with milk, parmesan cheese and salt & pepper in a blender. Add sauce to filled shells, then top shells with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!