Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

So, guys. I was cruising around the Google Image search looking for inspirational quotes on self-care the other day (anyone else do that? Bueller? Bueller?), and I saw a mantra that just rocked me to my core.

It said, very simply, “Hold your own wellbeing sacred.” And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that if you could have looked inside my head, you would have seen all the lightbulbs in a lightbulb store flipping on. Now, of course, this isn’t a new concept. We’ve all heard that we need to take care of ourselves to take care of others. And that we need to put ourselves first. But something about the word “sacred” just shot through my soul like an arrow. Sacred is non-negotiable. Sacred is elevated on a pedestal. Sacred is above everything else. Sacred is paramount. Sacred is a line you don’t cross. That’s the kind of commitment I need to make to my wellness—sacred level.

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

After letting this sink in for a few hours, I started thinking about all the ways I wasn’t making a sacred-level commitment to my own wellbeing. My wellbeing wasn’t sacred when I chose to watch another episode of something on Netflix instead of getting the sleep my body desperately craved. My wellbeing wasn’t sacred when I skipped my nightly yoga session to sit on the couch and check Instagram for the millionth time.

It’s not that those things are inherently bad—sometimes you need to binge watch something on Netflix and waste time on Instagram—it’s the fact that I was putting my own wellbeing lower on the priority list than something else. My body needed me to sleep and do yoga. And I just ignored the hell out of what it was saying. That’s the problem.

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

For the past few days, I’ve been doing this crazy thing—I ask my body what it needs on a regular basis. And then I answer myself. Like literally. Out loud. I have an actual conversation with myself. And then, the most important part, I actually do whatever my body needs.

The hardest part about this is being honest with myself—pushing aside all the noise, and, being as unbiased as I can, really figuring out what my body (and mind and soul) needs at that moment.

So what does all of this have to do with gooey, cheesy stuffed shells? Well, I was having a rough week last week. Nothing major, but just lots of little annoyances. And it honestly had me a bit down. Which meant I didn’t have much motivation. When meant I then felt guilty for being unmotivated. Which brought me down even more. Viscious cycle, party of one.

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells
Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Right in the middle of this sour mood is when I was doing the Google Image searching to try to bring myself out of the funk, and after I read the whole sacred wellbeing thing, it occurred to me—maybe being down is my body’s way of telling me what I need right now. I need quiet. I need calm. I need comfort.

(Of note: I definitely don’t feel like mental illness is something you can or should try to just “suck up”—mental illness is a real medical concern that needs real treatment from real professionals—what I’m talking about is not a mental illness, just the typical ups-and-downs of living life.)

So I stopped fighting the blues—I went with it. I listened to what my body was saying, withheld judgement, and went with it. And my body was saying I needed to stay in my jammies, put on some comfy slippers, and eat some cheesy, gooey deliciousness. I needed to wallow. And so I did. I wallowed with three kinds of cheese and pasta and butternut squash. And it worked. Once my body got its fill of the wallowing, it cycled back up to all sunshine and actually putting on real pants in the morning.

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

It’s interesting what you hear when you actually start listening to your body and what it needs. Would these stuffed shells be something my body would need every day? Absolutely not (although, they are yummy enough I could eat them for every meal). But last week, they needed these. And I’m so glad I listened to my body. Enjoy! And remember: hold your own wellbeing sacred, friends.

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

These Three Cheese Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are the ultimate in Fall comfort food.


For the Sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish

For the Shells:

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage, plus additional for garnish
  • 12 ounces jumbo shells, cooked al dente, drained and rinsed


  1. To make the sauce: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour, and continue to cook until the mixture turns slightly golden brown—about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Slowly whisk in the broth until all lumps are dissolved. Then add in the half and half, salt, and garlic powder. Continue to heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon—about 15 minutes. Watch carefully for scorching, you don't want the sauce to simmer or boil.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg and parmesan.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish (the biggest you have—at least a 13" x 9"). Set aside.
  5. To make the filling: in a large mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta, squash puree, 1 cup of mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and sage until smooth.
  6. Fill the cooked shells with the ricotta mixture (I used about 3 tablespoons per shell, but your shell size may vary). Place the shells, seam-side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining shells and filling—really packing them into the baking dish.
  7. Pour remaining sauce over the shells, and then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve topped with additional fresh sage and parmesan.


Bet you didn't know you can get frozen butternut squash! Most supermarkets will carry it in at least one form—either puree or cooked cubes you can mash for this recipe. Check in the frozen veggie aisle. It's a great time saver! You can also use canned pumpkin puree.

Make sure you rinse your shells using cool water after draining. Why? It helps cool the pasta down so you can handle them, but also removes much of the starch that makes the shells stick together—making them hard to separate to fill.

Best way to fill stuffed shells—grab a large zip-top bag, fill with the filling, and the clip off the corner. Pipe the filling to the shells using the makeshift piping bag.

This recipe easily will serve 8. It's a great freezer dish if you need to serve fewer than that. Just divide the shells between two square baking dishes—freeze one and cook the other.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 511Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 157mgSodium: 1181mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 29g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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  1. Made this for dinner last night and it was DELICIOUS!!! Time consuming but very much worth it!! The sauce was so tasty it is going to be used on many other dishes. Thanks Cassie for a wonderful and comprehensive recipe 🙂

  2. I made this tonight and it turned out amazing! I think next time I feel I use frozen squash I’ll drain some of the extra water out before mashing it though. The filling was a little runny going into the shells, but the extra moisture baked out and it was so good!

    Ps. Thank you for the well written, clear instructions on making the sauce. Normally I avoid making my own sauces, but this recipe made it seem easy!

  3. This recipe looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it. And I so love what you said about wallowing. We have so much forced positivity because we think that how things should be or that we’re doing something wrong if we give in to the crappiness for a little while. Your message is spot on. Sometime you just need to go with it..whatever it is in that moment.

  4. That episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory finally realizes that she needs to wallow has taught me so much! :^)

    Spending a cozy night in jammies and eating something indulgent – without allowing yourself to feel an ounce of guilt – can be incredibly healing.

    1. Gilmore Girls is such a good teacher. 🙂 There is such a strong belief in society that we need “power through” and “be a warrior”, and of course, sometimes that’s true. But it takes just as much strength to say, “Hey, I need this right now, and it’s okay.”