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.
The Kid Report Card
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!
More Terrific Summer Squash Recipes:
- Summer Squash Green Chili Stir Fry
- Summer Squash Salad
- Cheesy Summer Squash Sauté
- Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Sausage Stuffed Zucchini
Stuffed Shells with Summer Squash and Ricotta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 sweet onion, diced
- 2 cups yellow squash, chopped (from about two small squash)
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces large pasta shells (about 30)
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- DAD ADD: Prosciutto Crispies
- 3 ounces prosciutto
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Cook the onions and squash:
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and squash and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, mozzarella, egg, and salt. When squash and onion are at room temperature, add them to the cheese mixture along with any oil in the skillet. Stir well.
Cook the shells:
Cook shells according to package instructions, until al dente. Be sure not to overcook the shells or they will fall apart while baking. When shells are cooked, drain and let cool until they are cool enough to handle.
Fill the shells:
Spread one cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the squash and ricotta mixture. Place the filled shell in the baking dish. Repeat until you run out of filling or shells. You should get about 30 shells.
Add the sauce:
Spoon the rest of the marinara over the shells and dot the surface of the shells with a little extra mozzarella cheese (optional). Season the dish with fresh thyme and black pepper.
Bake the shells:
Bake the shells at 350°F for 30 minutes until the cheese in the filling has melted and the marinara is bubbling.
Make the prosciutto crispy topper (optional):
Tear the prosciutto into pieces. Add to a medium skillet. Cook over medium-low heat until prosciutto starts to brown and turn crispy. Remove from skillet and dice.
Return the diced prosciutto to the skillet. Add breadcrumbs and olive oil. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until breadcrumbs are brown and crispy. Remove and let cool, then sprinkle over pasta!
Leftovers: You can freeze the shells before baking or freeze the leftovers. Cool them to room temperature and then seal them in a freezer-safe container. Use them within a month or two. Reheat shells in a microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.