If you're like me and are obsessed with fall, you know it's more than just a season. It's about the sights, the smells, the sounds and, most importantly, the flavors that truly make the season complete. And to me, fall is just not complete without butternut squash. I still remember to this day the first time I ever tasted and fell in love with butternut squash. Before it was even cool, guys! Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
It was the early 2000s. My brother and dad were completely consumed with their new toy, Xbox, and this little gamed called Halo. We're talking consumed to the point where it involved all-nighters and many cans of Mountain Dew to tend to the obsession. What were my mom and I to do? Go on a classic mother/daughter date, of course! And let me tell you, my mom and I had the right formula for a perfect girls' night down: shopping + dinner + movies at home.
One of the earliest instances I can think of where we escaped the video game madness at Casa Davidson was when we took a trip to a little Olympia bistro that is no longer (sadly) for their infamous butternut squash ravioli.
Before I rave about how life-changing the butternut squash ravioli was, because it truly was life-changing, I have to put this into some context for you. You may be thinking to yourself that in this day and age, butternut squash raviolis are a dime a dozen on most restaurant menus. But in the precious early 2000s, butternut squash wasn't even a blip on most people's radar. Butternut squash ravioli was edgy and adventurous!
So now that I have you convinced that I truly was the original hipster, you know, liking butternut squash before it was even cool, I have to tell you about how positively scrumptious this butternut squash ravioli was. We're talking sweet, creamy pillows of butternut squash stuffed into tender ravioli. Just when you think the little butternut dumplings of love were enough to win you over, the ravioli was then smothered in a decadent, creamy, savory goat cheese cream that was good enough to consider licking your plate in public. Topped with crushed hazelnuts and fried sage, it was quite possibly the most perfect way to enjoy butternut squash.
That single bite turned me into a butternut squash lover for life and I've been cooking with it every fall ever since. From lucious coconut curry butternut squash soup to creamy butternut squash risotto to decadent butternut squash lasagna, I've just about covered my bases when it comes to butternut.
But what I realized this fall, of all the falls I had been cooking and consuming butternut squash since that first heavenly bite, was that I had never tried to recreate it on my own. Well, guess what guys, I finally did it! And, if I do say so myself, I think I did it justice.
Borrowing from the same key flavors of tangy goat cheese, creamy butternut squash and earthy sage and hazelnuts, my Hungry Ali version flips the whole "ravioli" bit on its head by cooking it in stuffed shell form. The result is still the same creamy, dreamy, decadent butternut squash centric dish I fell in love with all those years ago.
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Goat Cheese Cream Sauce
- 1 pound jumbo shells
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 whole cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream plus 2 tablespoons
- 4 oz goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cubed butternut squash and whole garlic cloves with olive oil, brown sugar and cayenne on a baking sheet until evenly coated. Roast for about 45 minutes, until squash is cooked through and golden brown.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water until boiling. Season water generously with salt, about a handful. Cook shells about 1 minute under package directions since the shells will finish cooking in the oven. Drain shells and set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups cream, goat cheese and parm, stirring frequently until goat cheese and parm are melted. Add chopped sage and season with salt to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove butternut squash from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Lower oven temp to 400 degrees. Add squash and whole garlic cloves to a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of cream and puree.
To assemble shells, ladle about a cup of cream sauce into the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of squash mixture into each shell and lay evenly across casserole dish. Top with remaining cream sauce. Bake for another 10-15 minutes until cream sauce is thick and bubbling. Top immediately with grated parm, chopped hazelnuts (bonus points if you toast them beforehand) and more chopped sage. Enjoy!