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LivingFood and DrinkStuffed Shells with Vodka Butternut Squash Sauce

Stuffed Shells with Vodka Butternut Squash Sauce

by Susan Hanna

This recipe from Food and Drink magazine is labour-intensive, but the results are worth the effort. Roast squash cubes and unpeeled garlic until tender. Meanwhile, combine the cheeses, egg yolks, basil and seasoning. Cook the pasta shells and drain. Puree the cooked squash and peeled cooked garlic with cream, vodka, tomato paste and seasoning. Pour half the squash sauce into a baking dish and top with shells stuffed with cheese mixture. Pour remaining sauce overtop, sprinkle with more cheese and bake.

Serves 6-8

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Tre Stelle ricotta, No Name pizza mozzarella, No Name tomato paste and genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano (look for the name stamped on the rind) are additive-free. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.


  • 1 medium-size butternut squash, peeled, cut into large cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, trimmed with peel on
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tub (475 g) traditional ricotta
  • 2 cups (500 ml) shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1 ½ cups (375 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino, divided
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) finely chopped basil, plus 1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 ml) small basil leaves to garnish
  • 1 tsp + ¼ tsp (5 ml + 1 ml) kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper, plus generous pinches
  • ½ lb (225 g) jumbo shells, about 35
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream (35%)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vodka
  • 1 tube or can (156 ml) tomato paste


Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).

  1. Spread out squash cubes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast in centre of preheated oven until very tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Stir and shake pan a couple of times during roasting to prevent any sticking.
  2. Meanwhile, add ricotta and half of mozzarella and Parmigiano to a bowl. Set remaining grated cheeses aside. Whisk yolks, ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped basil, ¼ tsp (1 ml) salt and generous pinches of pepper into ricotta mixture. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil. When boiling, salt the water then tumble in shells, separating as you add. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes. You’ll likely need to knock a couple of minutes off the cooking time listed on the package. Carefully scoop out 1 cup (250 ml) pasta water and set aside in case you need to thin the sauce later. Drain and cold-rinse pasta.
  4. When squash is done, let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (177°C).
  5. Turn slightly co oled squash into a food processor. Squeeze garlic out of its papery skins into food processor. Whirl until chopped. Add cream, vodka, tomato paste, remaining 1 tsp (5 ml) salt and 1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) pepper. Whirl until puréed. If very thick, whirl in reserved pasta water until thinned to a tomato paste consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  6. Pour half of sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 32-cm) baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with about 1 tbsp (15 ml) ricotta filling before adding to the sauced pan. Pour remaining sauce overtop. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Seal dish with foil. Bake until lightly bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and broil until lightly golden, about 5 more minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with basil leaves. Serve warm.Serves 6-8.

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