Kitchens need more baked pasta this time of year. Warm and satisfying and easily assembled in advance so you can just slide them in the oven and curl up on the couch. This version is all fall with sweet, cheesy shells of mild sausage, fresh Swiss chard, ricotta and mozzarella. Baked in that sweet, creamy butternut squash sauce that I (and my kids) can’t get enough of. I’m working on getting more of these types of dinners in my life. Something comforting to mellow things out since we’ve been binge-watching the last season of Homeland. I’m getting all kinds of stressed out watching Carrie undertake 47 life-threatening activities while also managing to look stylish in a government-employee way that I (a former government employee) secretly love.
Someone needs to feed them a plate of pasta.If you’ve never made stuffed shells, you’ve got to try it. It’s one of those kitchen activities that you sort of get into a rhythm with. Once you’ve got the process down, it goes really fast. And at the end you feel like a kitchen artist for having created this dish of pretty food.
I’m a fan of the plastic bag filling method pictured below (and described in the recipe). It’s a trick I’ve used before, sort of like using an icing bag to decorate a cake, and makes clean-up a breeze.
Anyone else out there watching Homeland? Every season I swear I can take the intensity but I just keep coming back for more.
- 4 cups Butternut Squash Sauce
- 24 Jumbo Pasta Shells (about 12 oz)
- 12 oz Mild Italian Sausage
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- ½ Onion, chopped
- 4 large leaves Chard (Swiss or rainbow), stems discarded, very finely chopped
- 4 oz Mozzarella, grated
- 12 oz Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese, for serving (opt)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread butternut squash sauce on the bottom of a large oven-safe skillet or 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta boils, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking it apart with a spatula while it cooks. Cook until golden brown and crumbled, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to a large mixing bowl and return pan to heat. Add butter and, when it melts, add onions and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes more. Add chard and cook until chard wilts, about 2 minutes (add the lid to help it cook faster). Add chard mixture to the sausage. Top with mozzarella and ricotta and stir to combine.
- Spoon filling into a large plastic bag and seal the bag. Cut a triangle out of one of the bottom corners of the bag. Hold one pasta shell at a time in your hand and use the other hand to squeeze filling from the plastic bag into the shell. (You can also just spoon the filling into the shells if you prefer.)
- Arrange the filled shells on top of the butternut squash sauce. Bake until the dish is warmed through and the shells are just beginning to turn golden brown on the tops, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese on top.
And behind the scenes shooting this dish. Involves my mom’s decades-old bread board and me on a step stool.