A crisp breeze blows through the air. LA’s frigid 60s temps have me feeling the spirit of the season! And you know what that season is…
NO. Not Pumpkin Spice Latte season.
SQUASH SEASON. (Although yes, pumpkin is technically a squash.)
Acorn squash. Spaghetti squash. Butternut squash.
It’s all deliciously in season this winter, and that means its all sold at even more delicious prices. A giant butternut squash like the one I purchased at the farmers market is only going to run you about $5.
And you know what? That thing can feed you for a WEEK. Seriously, I made the recipe below for date night and I had enough leftovers to pack my work lunch, Monday through Friday!
Butternut squash is the perfect rock-star ingredient to take centerstage at a fall date night dinner for a few reasons.
First, it has plenty of manganese. You’re like that means nothing to me.
MANGANESE HELPS CONTROL THE SYMPTOMS OF PMS.
Mother Nature clearly created this magical gourd because as a woman, she feels our pain. She wanted to help a sista out.
As if you need another reason to obsess over squash, it’s full of sweet, sweet carbs. And these special carbs are not the enemy, my friends. They’re a special diet-friendly kind of carb your body digests differently and are full of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.
With all of these health benefits, how could you be anti-squash?
Squash your worries about cooking squash. Basically all you’ve gotta do is pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, cut that baby in half, hollow it out and bake that bad boy for about 40 min. Top with butter, salt and a sprinkle of brown sugar, and you just might get a little sugar from your date for cooking something so mmm, mmm, good.
But if you want to get a little more fancy for your $20 Date, give this easy recipe a try. It is simple, with impressive fall flavors are like squash ravioli but easier to make and honestly they tasted just as good microwaved the next day.
Pair it with a crisp white wine like a chardonnay or chablis.
Butternut Squash and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
1 large butternut squash (see my photo directly above, I used HALF that guy)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 box of large pasta shells
1 container 15 oz part-skim ricotta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (I grate mine fresh, but that pre-grated Kraft stuff will do in a pinch)
3/4 cup frozen, chopped spinach (thawed with liquid drained)
1 egg (this holds together the stuffing so it doesn’t fall apart and out of the shells)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cloves of fresh garlic (4 if you like to live dangerously)
1 package fresh sage
1 stick of butter
1 lemon (for zest and juice; DO NOT buy lemon juice, trust me.)
Kitchen items you’ll need:
Large mixing bowl
Glass 9x13in baking dish, lightly greased
Cheese grater (for parmesan if needed)
A very big, very sharp knife for the squash
Medium sized pan
Large pot for boiling pasta
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the butternut squash (about 1-inch cubes).
- Toss squash with olive oil and spread on baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until squash is tender when poked with a fork.
- Remove squash from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
- While Squash is Cooking: Cook your pasta shells according to packaging; likely about 12 minutes in boiling water. (You’ll want them al dente, because when you bake them later, they will soften up even more)
- Once squash cools, mash it up in the mixing bowl.
- Combine and mix squash with egg, ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, spinach and lemon zest. DO NOT leave out the zest! This imparts a citrus flavor that will meld everything else together.
- Spoon squash mixture into shells according to your stuffing preference and line up in glass baking dish.
- Bake covered with foil at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
- When you remove the foil covering, start preparing the wonderfully delicious brown butter sauce. Melt the butter on medium low in the pan.
- Once the butter has melted, bring it to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. You might be asking, “What does brown butter look like when it’s ready?” If it looks and smells like melted butter (yellow/clear), it’s not ready. The butter will literally start to have brownish tiny specs appear and take on a decadent, complex flavor and smell. Be careful, this can quickly turn from brown to burnt.
- Rip off fresh sage leaves and toss into the brown butter. This will flash fry and crispen the sage.
- Drizzle the brown butter sauce over your stuffed pasta shells. Top each shell with crispy sage leaves. Give the whole dish a fresh squeeze of lemon and serve.
Would you put the kabosh on squash? Or are you falling for this fall recipe? Let me know why with a like, comment or share!