Summer squash is wonderful this time of year. If you’re lucky enough to know any gardeners, they might be giving the stuff away. Say yes and make these summer squash-stuffed shells! (Then give them some as a thank-you!)
When you sauté yellow summer squash with onions and add a little ricotta and mozzarella, you get a great pasta stuffing that’s a bit lighter than your standard meat-stuffed Italian dish – in other words, perfect for summer.
WHAT KIND OF SQUASH TO USE
I used yellow squash for this recipe, but feel free to substitute another summer squash like zucchini, or butternut or acorn squash in the fall. (Just be sure to roast the butternut or acorn squash first before mixing with the ricotta filling.)
HOW TO MAKE THE FILLING
I kept the filling for these shells very simple. I didn’t want to add too many flavors and overpower the squash, so I just sautéed some onions and squash in olive oil then stirred that into ricotta, mozzarella, and an egg for a little binder. That’s all you need!
I also used red sauce to cover the shells, as I thought a cream sauce might be too heavy. You can use any tomato sauce you like. To keep it simple, I just used a store-bought marinara sauce and it worked great, though you could certainly make your own.
DON’T OVERCOOK THE SHELLS!
Make sure you don’t overcook the shells when you boil them! If anything, pull them out a minute early so they still have plenty of integrity to them. If you overcook them, they will fall apart when you try to stuff them.
MAKE-AHEAD AND FREEZING
This is one of the more involved Eat Your Food! recipes I’ve done, but the good news is that it can be done entirely ahead of time. Stuff the shells up to three days in advance and have them ready in the fridge.
Also, the dish freezes well. After baking, freeze the entire dish of shells (or just the leftovers) in an airtight freezer-safe container, and they will keep for a few months. Don’t keep them much longer than that or you risk freezer burn.
To reheat the shells from the freezer, bake them covered with foil until the center is warmed through and the cheese is melty, an hour or so at 350˚F.
The DAD ADD: Prosciutto Crispies
This is a classy topper for pasta dishes, but it takes these stuffed shells to the next level. Slowly sauté prosciutto until crispy, then chop it up and cook it with breadcrumbs until everything is browned and crunchy. I call this a Dad Add but everybody in my family was into this addition.
Stuffed foods are one of my favorites, but they can be a tough sell for my kids. (“What’s going on in there?!”) The first thing my kids usually do when I serve them something stuffed is reject it. (For these stuffed shells, my 2-year old immediately requested that I “clean” the pasta. I get it.)
The second thing they do is deconstruct the thing on their plates, which I’m generally fine with that as long as they then eat it!
I was very worried about these shells because they look… complicated. So I ended up chopping up the shells and scooping out the filling. Interestingly, both my kids tried both the shells and the filling, they just didn’t want them together! But I didn’t have to make a second dinner, so I call that a win!