Here in my office, we are big fans of the potluck lunch. We take it very seriously. People go all out. And I must say, everyone here is a really good cook (or baker). And if you’re not, you’ll be chastised for years after you’ve stopped working here. We tend to have a potluck lunch once a quarter. And somehow, I’ve been put in charge of planning them. To be honest with you, I have no idea why. I’m known to be a pretty anti-social introvert around the office… Yet, people still like me. (Or at least I think they do?) Anyway, it doesn’t really make sense that I am the one planning (and suggesting) the office potluck with the way I avoid group lunches on a regular basis. But somehow, there I am. Clearing the date with people. Creating a sign-up sheet with adorable (er, cheesy) clip art. Debating different recipes with my co-workers. Cursing myself the night before because I never feel like cooking for these when the time comes.
We had an office potluck a few weeks ago (I am late with this post… and about 20 other recipes. Forgive me.), and I made butternut squash and spinach stuffed shells. It was the third time I’d made this recipe over the course of about two weeks. They are so yummy and pretty easy to make. For the potluck, I decided I would keep the shells warm in a crock pot. This would have worked well if I had covered the shells before I put them in the fridge the night before. But I was so exhausted that I couldn’t think straight and in the morning, the shells were a little dry. But if you are making these and eating them right away, they are delicious.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS
with lemon sage butter sauce
- 1-2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- a box of jumbo pasta shells (or half a box, depending on how many you plan to make)
- 2 cups of ricotta cheese
- some parmesan cheese (to taste, about 1/4 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 box of frozen spinach, cooked according to package directions and drained well
- 1/2 of a lemon, plus grated lemon peel
- 1 stick of butter
- several sage leaves
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
I found a way to peel and cube your butternut squash that makes it so much easier. I can’t recall the website where I found this tip, but I’ve been doing it every time I use butternut squash for something, and I am so thankful I discovered this. First, put your whole squash in the microwave for about 3 minutes. When it is done, let it cool for a bit. Sometimes I don’t wait that long for it to cool and just wear an oven mitt while handling the squash. Put a sil-pat under your cutting board to keep it from slipping and sliding. (Genius!) Cut off both ends of the squash, so that it will stand flat. Then cut the “bulb” of the squash off from the “neck” so that you have it in two sections. Then with a small knife (not a vegetable peeler!), carefully slice off the skin in thin strips. Then cut your squash into discs. From there, cut it into cubes. You can Google this if you want to find videos and photos of how to do this.
Toss your squash cubes with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast them on a sil-pat lined baking dish for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally.
Turn oven down to 400 degrees.
Once your squash is cooled down a bit, you can mash it slightly with a fork. It’s okay if there are still some larger chunks.
Combine the squash, ricotta, spinach, parmesan, lemon peel, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper in a bowl. Fill the shells with your mixture and place them in buttered baking dish.
Bake until heated through and the cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes.
While the shells are baking, you can make the lemon sage butter sauce. Melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan or skillet, until brown and bubbly. Add your sage leaves and cook until slightly crisp. Remove from heat. Squeeze in the juice from your lemon. Pour lemon sage butter sauce over the shells right before serving.
Recipe adapted from: prouditaliancook.com
Notes: If you are going to travel with this dish and heat it in a crock pot like I did, you should spray your crock pot with Pam or line it with butter. Place the shells in the pot. It’s okay if they are layered on top of each other. Before turning on your crock pot, pour the lemon sage butter sauce over the shells to keep them from drying out. Heat through and serve. You can also reheat this in the oven, but we don’t have one of those in our office, hence the use of the crock pot.
I had a lot of the filling leftover when I made this so I thought it would be a good idea to put the filling in a calzone. WRONG. It was disgusting. These have a very lemony flavor, which when eating them as the shells kinda makes the recipe. But in a whole wheat calzone, dipped in marinara, it is gross. I threw it away. So, I do not recommend that!