Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Cream Sauce

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Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Cream Sauce | @naturallyella

When feeding a group of people, large or small, I'm always trying to figure out how to prep ahead. I want to have a more hands-off experience so I can enjoy time with friends and family. I often make stuffed shells to avoid a cooking frenzy. In fact, these squash stuffed shells (and a few ricotta variations) have made an appearance at quite a few get-togethers. It's a lot of cooking time but not a lot of hands on time. Bonus: everything can even be made ahead of time! These squash stuffed shells are also a great fit for a more traditional Thanksgiving. It's a perfect side for those eating turkey and makes for a great main for everyone else.

Step by Step

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu


Vegetarian Thanksgiving | @naturallyella

The vegetarian menu shows my weakness: cream. This pasta dish is the star of the show but the carrots and the Brussels sprout salad balance out the richness. This meal is full of vegetables but still satisfying for everyone. Prep the pasta and salad ahead of time for day-of ease. The full meal includes:

Brussels Sprout Salad with Manchego
Tea Braised Carrots
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Wine Pairing: 2013 Boeger Tempranillo: I paired this meal with a lovely Tempranillo from Boeger Winery. Tempranillo is an excellent wine with mealtime. It’s on the lighter side of the reds, with soft tannins, cleansing my palate just enough to really appreciate the sweet and savory components of these squash stuffed shells.


Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Cream Sauce

A beautiful main dish for the vegetarians that also works as a seasonal holiday side, these shells can be prepped in advance making day-of cooking easier.

  • Author: Erin Alderson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 70 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course


  • 1 large butternut squash (roughly 2 lbs)
  • 6 ounces large pasta shells
  • 2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage or 6 to 8 fresh leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan (see note)
  • Fresh sage (for topping)


  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Slice butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place each half cut side down in a large roasting dish and pour 1/2 inch of water into the bottom. Place in oven and bake until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Once done, remove and let cool.
  3. While squash is roasting, cook pasta shells according to directions. Cook until pasta is al dente (tender, but not over soft).
  4. When squash has cooled enough to handle, scrape out the flesh into a bowl and discard the skins. Mix in maple syrup, salt, and nutmeg until thoroughly incorporated. 
  5. To make sauce, melt butter in a medium sized pot over medium low heat. Pour in heavy cream, garlic, sage, and rosemary.  Reduce heat and continue to cook the sauce without boiling the cream until the cream has thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan and keep stirring until the cheese is completely melted. 
  6. Pour 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of butternut filling into each pasta shell. Place stuffed pasta shell in the dish and repeat until pasta shells are filled. Pour remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan. 
  7. Return stuffed shells in the oven and bake until sauce starts to bubble and slightly brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh sage.


Tips & Tricks: The roasted butternut squash should yield about 2 cups mashed.

Look for parmesan made with 'vegetarian rennet' or 'microbial rennet'. Both would indicate that the parmesan is vegetarian!

For an extra crusty top, place the pasta under the broiler after it finishes cooking for 30 to 60 seconds to brown the top.

Stock up: get the pantry ingredients you will need: pasta, maple syrup, butter

Nutrition: See the information.


  • Calories: 512
  • Sugar: 8
  • Sodium: 314.7
  • Fat: 26.1
  • Carbohydrates: 56.9
  • Protein: 15.7
  • Cholesterol: 78.4

Squash Stuffed Shells


I usually prefer homemade whole wheat pasta. But when it comes to these shells, I buy the store brand for ease of use. If you're wanting to go the homemade route, think of making large squares you might use for ravioli but instead of sealing them, turning them into a boat instead. Not a pretty as the store-bought but it works!

Pasta: Can’t find the shells? Cube the butternut and roast. Serve with the sauce over pappardelle or your favorite gluten free noodle.

Winter Squash: If you don’t have butternut squash, you could try this recipe with acorn squash or even canned pumpkin.

Greens: Add in chopped spinach, kale or collards. For tougher greens such as kale, remove stems and blanch before chopping. Mix in with butternut squash before stuffing the shells.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Herbed Cream Sauce | @naturallyella

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37 comments on “Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Cream Sauce”

  1. The stuffed shells sound wonderful. Do you think they could be frozen?
    Thank you.

  2. I love this recipe. I'm a big fan of butternut squash and I recently did my first stuffed pasta shells. I will make it this weekend. Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

  3. thank you for sharing this, wonderful photography too, and nice video! love the idea of pasta shells and the nutmeg-parmesan-maple flavor profile!

  4. Your blog pictures are awesome. I am looking forward to trying some of these dishes.

  5. Erin!

    Thanks for the recommendation of wine to pair, I'll pick up a bottle after work tomorrow. My fiancee and I think this will be the perfect quaint little meal. I personally am excited to experience the maple flavor in a pasta dish, not sure I ever have before!

    Thanks for the posting! Cheers!

  6. 5 stars
    Following up to my previous comment- this recipe is the bomb! So so good. What a fantastic way to enjoy the flavors of the season in a savory dish.

  7. Yum! Made this for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I added a box of chopped spinach to the butternut squash (which I pureed with an immersion blender for a nice consistency). I also use a thick homemade almond milk in the place of the cream (allergies) and set aside some without the cheese. I did add some salt to the sauce as I like things on the saltier/savory side. Thanks for a lighter recipe for the Thanksgiving table!

  8. This sounds absolutely delicious! I would probably use this as a side dish because I'm concerned about the amount of protein I get in my meals (I don't do well with low protein/high carb meals). I can imagine the wonderful flavor with the squash, sage and rosemary. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  9. This sounds amazing! Do you have any suggestions for a substitute for the heavy cream? My stomach sadly can't handle that much dairy. I wasn't sure if the cream from a can of coconut milk would work?

  10. I wasn't able to find the larger shells so I have to use noodles. Can I cube the day before and refrigerate before cooking? And how long do you recommend roasting the squash? Any advice would be helpful! I'm planning to use this as my main entree for a dinner party tomorrow. Thank you!

    1. I would roast the squash like in this recipe and yes, you could cube early- just keep the squash in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Also, I might let the sauce cook just a little longer (not letting it boil) so that it thickens a bit more!

      1. Ok, one more clarifying question (sorry, I am not a cook by any stretch!!): I cut the squash in half, roast, then mix, then add to the pasta and serve?? Thank you again!!

  11. 5 stars
    I absolutely LOVE this recipe!! It's so easy, delicious, AND it reheats just as delicious as it is when it's fresh. I'm obsessed. Making it for the second time tonight!

  12. I've been trying to get brave enough to try making ravioli with a butternut squash filling (can't find it in the store). This will be so much easier 🙂 I will be making my own Béchamel sauce for it with milk instead of heavy cream. A lot less fat.
    Butternut and Spaghetti squash have been my favorite things to cook with for the last few years. If you're in a hurry either can be done in the microwave. Just puncture the skin several times with a sharp knife, put on a microwave safe plate, and cook on high about 10 - 15 minutes depending on size of squash.
    I add a little nutmeg to just about anything creamy -- cream style soups, white sauces, etc. or that tastes 'cold' such as mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs. A little goes a long way, doesn't really change the flavor.

  13. Do you think you could make the shells and filling the night before and then make cream sauce and bake the evening of serving? Many thanks! Looks wonderful and excited to try!

  14. CAn this dish be frozen? Making for a bridal shower in a week and would like to make ahead. I was thinking of partially baking then freezing.

  15. Made it tonight!! Really good!! Except that I doubled the receipe, added maple syrup in the sauce and added about 1/3 cup of almond milk with the cream cause it wasn't saucy enough for us... and I will add a little more next time! ? Other then that, thanks for the idea!!!! ?And what would be a great side dish to it??

  16. Incredible!! I made this vegan by taking out the parmesan and using coconut cream. I was going to add nutritional yeast to substitute for the parmesan but I tasted the sauce first and it was so good I didn't want to add anything else! This will be a definitely become a regular dish (probably using sweet potato since squash is only available a few months of the year by me) and a DEFINITE dish if I ever host Thanksgiving or Christmas- it's that good!

  17. I just made this in medium sized shells in the crock pot. I made a few changes. I added an egg to bind it a bit. Then, because I wanted to double the recipe but only had one squash I made half of my shells with squash, the other half with riccotta cheese type filling and with pumpkin spice. I alternated the two types side by side, layering first sauce, then shells, then sauce etc. Now its in the crockpot. I'm excited to see how this comes out. I know that the sauce is killer tasty!?

  18. After years of baking butternuts IN water and being disappointed with mushy results, I have begun baking them in a perforated pan just above a second pan of boiling water. Better results for me!

  19. 5 stars
    This is really good! I made it once last month and I'm bringing as our vegetarian contribution to Thanksgiving dinner with family this week.

  20. 3 stars
    Lovely recipe though it is on the sweet side. Next time, I’ll try making it without the maple syrup to see if it’s more to my British taste buds.

    I will definitely try this one again.


Welcome to my little internet nook. On this site you'll find over a thousand vegetarian recipes, pantry knowledge, and more. I'm ever obsessed with food from gardening, cooking, and preserving. I hope you'll find endless inspiration on these pages and visit often. 

Virtual hugs, Erin (aka: e.l.l.a.)

a few good grain recipes

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