Sunday Comfort: Butternut Stuffed Shells {San Luis Obispo, Ca}

It's here, it has arrived!  Fall on the Central Coast is always fashionably late, entering in after we are all flushed by the Indian Summer.  I think it's Mother Nature's way of making us beg for it, making us truly appreciate the changes happening around us.

We are huge fans of the Butternut Squash.  It was even one of Jesse's first foods, and he's not yet lost his taste for it (we'll see how long that lasts!)  One of my favorite, MUST-order meals in a restaurant is Butternut Squash Ravolis...perfect little clouds with creamy filling that inspired our Sunday dinner on this rainy day.

My Butternut Stuffed Shells take on another twist with my secret ingredient of tofu in place of the traditional ricotta. (Trust me, it's a fabulous ingredient not just for stir-fries.)  A bit of time in the kitchen and you will reap the rewards of your labor with loads of yummy leftovers that taste even better the next day, looks of glowing admiration from your loved ones, and yes, maybe even a plaque in your honor.

Butternut Stuffed Shells

Filling: In a food processor, blend 2 cups steamed butternut squash with 15 oz. tofu (medium firm) until a smooth consistency develops.  Add 1/2 parmsean, 1/2 shredded mozzarella, and salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste.  If you have it, freshly chopped basil is a great addition.  I also folded in 1 cup of sauteed shredded cabbage and it was a hit, (Martha Stewart uses pancetta...which I bet is pretty darn awesome, as well.)

The Process: Boil jumbo shell pasta in plenty of water (the entire box will take about 3 batches for an average sized soup pot).  Gently remove when al dente and let cool on an oiled baking sheet (don't let them touch while cooling).  When shells are cool enough to handle, gently stuff each one with a spoonful of filling.  In pans of your choice, spread a thin layer of your favorite marinara sauce and place the filled shells side-by-side.  Spoon additional sauce over the shells (a couple spoonfuls on each shell) and top with mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmsean.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until bubbly on top, about 15-20 min for our oven.

We served our shells with Sauteed Cabbage (a tiny pat of butter and a sprinkle of celery seeds does wonders!).  This dish, like lasagna, is best eaten after the lava-hot-temperature has gone down, and really truly might just taste better the next day.  (Warning: this recipe makes a ton of food so make sure you have the freezer space or a neighbor that you like enough to share extras with.)  Enjoy!