Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells

by Kelli on November 4, 2013

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com

Congrats to everyone who ran the NYC Marathon yesterday!!!  Extra special shout out to Joanne and everyone from my running group who was out there, especially Deirdre.  D ran the Chicago Marathon three weeks ago and she had a killer race in New York yesterday.  Is she a rockstar, or what?!  She deserves a beer….and, a giant plate of stuffed shells!

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com

I ran the NYC Marathon in 2010.  It was my one and only marathon (so far) and a tough day, to say the least.  Despite the race not going as planned, I didn’t immediately swear off marathons forever.  I’m pretty sure that was just as shocking for me as it was for everyone who saw me running that day.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ready to register for another marathon anytime soon, but I knew I was capable of running a stronger race and I wanted a better day out there.  One day.

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com

Well, I think that day will be sometime next year.  Maybe you’re thinking that I’m still caught up in “marathon fever” from yesterday.  That’s part of it, for sure.  I also feel hugely motivated by L, who in the past year has gone from reluctantly running with me, to become a strong, fast runner, falling in love with this sport, and feeling ready to take on the challenge of a marathon.

I’m also kind of in it for the carbs, let’s not kid ourselves.

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com

Whether you’re training for a marathon or not, I think Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells need to be in your dinner rotation!  These shells are all about the filling!  It combines (mashed) roasted butternut squash, sauteed shredded kale, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, along with the perfect compliment of herbs and spices – sage, nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Since the squash is such a huge part of the filling, these stuffed shells are way healthier than traditional stuffed shells, filled mostly with cheese.

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com

Either bake your shells in individual serving size baking dishes (I recommend four stuffed shells per person) or use one large baking dish.

If you’re like L and love tomato sauce, I think that works as a topping for this dinner.  Although, my first choice is a creamy bechamel sauce!  The bechamel is mild enough that the butternut squash and kale remain the stars of this dinner.

Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells

Yield: Makes 18-24 stuffed shells


  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 1 two-three lb. butternut squash, peeled, seed & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups kale (about 1 small bunch), center rib removed & shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss butternut squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread evenly, in a single layer, across a large baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes, or until squash is very soft and tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the shells and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander and hold until ready to use. Toss shells with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the kale and garlic, stir to coat and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 8 minutes.

Add the butternut squash to a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the cooked kale, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, nutmeg, sage and cayenne pepper, and mix together until well combined. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

There are two ways to fill the shells. Either spoon the filling directly into the shells. Or, spoon the filling into a pastry bag or large Ziploc bag, cut one of the corners off the bag and pipe the filling into the shells. I find using the pastry/Zipoc bag easier and faster.

Pour the chicken stock into a large baking dish (or divide amongst smaller baking dishes), and arrange the shells in the dish. Top with shells with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Top with bechamel sauce and serve immediately.

Store extra stuffed shells in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a few months.


These shells freeze really well. For the shells that you plan to freeze, fill them but do not bake them. Store the filled shells in a freezer safe container, and add a piece of wax paper between each layer of shells.


Butternut Squash and Kale Stuffed Shells put healthy and comfort food in the same sentence. Get these on your table asap!  TheCornerKitchenBlog.com


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Tieghan November 4, 2013 at 8:06 AM

I could never run a marathon, but I think it is pretty cool that you want to get back out there! Congrats!

These shell are my dream food. Butternut, carbs and cheese! yes, please!


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM

You totally could, girl! I’m a big believer that with time and training anyone can run a marathon (with the exception of anyone with medical issues, of course). You’d be surprised what your body can do.


Maria November 4, 2013 at 8:27 AM

Great dinner idea!


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Thanks so much, Maria!


Julia November 4, 2013 at 8:28 AM

These things look so amazing! Definitely the perfect food post long-run/workout! I’m amazed you’ve run a marathon…I did a half a long time ago and even 13 miles seems like forever to me now! Maybe one day I’ll buck up and you and I can jaunt next to each other in a marathon :)


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 9:52 AM

Thanks, friend! It’s you can run a half, you can totally run a full marathon….it’s all about the time and training…and of course, the tasty carbs :)


Ali @ Inspiralized November 4, 2013 at 9:05 AM

I love butternut squash stuffed in raviolis, so I can only imagine how good these taste! Yummy


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Butternut squash filled anything is pretty much always a winner in my book! Thanks, Ali!


Tina Muir November 4, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Yum! Stuffed shells are always good, and now you have added butternut squash to them they are even better! I love that you said they freeze well too, I live alone so would be difficult to get through even half the recipe. At this point in my marathon training I am a little tired of pasta, this will bring my enthusiasm back just in time to carboload!



Kelli November 4, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Freezable meals like this are such a lifesaver when training and life get crazy busy! Enjoy the rest of training & tapering, and good luck in your marathon!


Alaina @ Fabtastic Eats November 4, 2013 at 10:15 AM

ohmygosh. I love this filling so so much..I need this! You can do a marathon again! Get it girl!


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Aww, thanks Alaina! So, a big bowl of this filling for you and 26.2 miles for me :)


Amy @ Elephant Eats November 4, 2013 at 2:02 PM

You should totally attempt a marathon again! I did a half once (I don’t even know how I managed that) and Nate keeps telling me to sign up for another half or a full and do it with him. He’s ridiculously fast (sub 7 min miles) so I’m not sure how that would work! But it’s true that pasta, especially this one, would be an excellent motivator ;)


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Yes, I agree with Nate, you should get on the half/full marathon train!!


Erin | The Law Student's Wife November 4, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Gorgeous pasta! Butternut squash makes me weak at the knees.
I ran the Chicago marathon back in 2007 and have similar feelings about a repeat performance. I just haven’t found the right motivation since!


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 6:14 PM

I have all sorts of serious love for butternut squash!


Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain November 4, 2013 at 3:49 PM

I’m with Erin! I ran Chicago and haven’t run one since!! But these shells, definitely deserve a repeat or four!


Kelli November 4, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Maybe we should all sign up for another marathon, and fill our belly’s with stuffed shells!


Kim November 4, 2013 at 8:09 PM

That looks yummy. We’ll be making it for sure


Kelli November 5, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Thanks, Kim! You guys will love this for sure!


Joanne November 6, 2013 at 8:13 AM

Haha thanks for the shout-out girl! The race itself definitely did not go as swimmingly as planned for me, and yet it was still awesome, largely because of the crowd support! I will definitely NOT be running next year but I will definitely be cheering you on!! And carb loading in empathy. With these shells. YUM.


Kelli November 7, 2013 at 12:24 PM

For sure! Well, it seems like the race had a great ending :)


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