Cheesy Pasta Shells with Butternut Squash

Creamy, golden, rich and smacking of fall.

Serving Size: 8

Cheesy Pasta Shells with Butternut Squash / Matthew Mead / Associated Press
Autumn comfort food at its finest.

In this recipe directions are provided for roasting the butternut squash, but if you have leftover roasted winter squash from your Thanksgiving – or any other autumnal or winter dinner – then you can just substitute in 3 or 4 cups of cooked squash.  This is a great recipe to keep in mind when you can’t look at another leftover in its original incarnation one more time.  I mean, how many times can you have pie for breakfast? (Don’t answer that, that was a trick question.)

The squash contributes color and some bona fide nutritional value to this decadent dish, while the diced caramelized onions provides texture and a nice flavor.

This can be serve as a main course, with a salad with a vinegary dressing to balance out the creamy richness of the dish, or it makes a luxurious side dish to a roast chicken or some grilled or pan-seared chops.

Using the cooking water from the pasta does a couple of things in this recipe.  The water contains some of the starch from the pasta, so it helps thicken the sauce and bind it to the cooked pasta and vegetables.  It also eliminates the need for an excessive amount of half and half or cream in this dish.

And, no, I’m not saying that this pasta isn’t indulgent….I’m just saying it could in fact be more indulgent.

Cheesy Pasta Shells with Butternut Squash


  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1½ cups half and half
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. On a rimmed baking sheet, place the butternut squash, onion chunks, and sage, then drizzle over the olive oil and toss everything on the baking sheet. Spread everything out into a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast for about 35 minutes until the squash is tender and everything is nicely browned.

4. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the cooking water, and drain the pasta.

5. Place the cooking water and the half and back in the same pot and heat over medium high heat just until little bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Whisk in the Parmesan, goat cheese and Monterey Jack until the cheeses are melted. Return the pasta to the pan and stir until coated with the sauce. Add the cooked squash and onions to the pan and toss to combine. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

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