Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope you and your sweetie have something special planned. And hopefully it involves something extra delicious! Our 3-year-old, Shea, came downstairs this morning and said in the cutest little 3-year-old way, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommy!” I mean, srsly? Can’t get any better than that.
Especially since I was a bit miffed with my valentine. It took me a while to fall asleep last night (which RARELY happens) and just before midnight, Mark woke me up out of a dead sleep to ask, “What’s in your mouth?”
I don’t remember if I responded with “NOTHING!” or “MY TONGUE!” but it was with a tone of complete annoyance. This morning when I asked him about it he had no recollection of the exchange. Why can’t he be charming, or at least interesting, in his sleep talking?
But presenting me with chocolate covered strawberries for tonight shifted the tone of the morning and I quickly felt a tinge of regret over not planning a special meal for tonight to accompany that perfect little sweet treat. Oops.
That said, I don’t think Mark should be pitied too much. I mean, I recently made him these little labors of love – Butternut Squash and Spinach-Stuffed Shells. While many pasta dishes come together in a jiff, lasagna and stuffed shells are much the exception. My mom used to make stuffed shells for somewhat special occasions and so I keep them on that same pedestal.
This combination of savory and sweet is quite worthy of a place at your Valentine’s Day table. Hand-stuffed with a meaty, cheesy, creamy combination of flavors and to be cooked in a velvety sauce that’s just a tad sweet makes for a true show-stopper meal that’s perfect for showing some I-love-you to your sweetie.
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¾ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 20 oz Sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
- 5 oz bag baby spinach
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb jumbo shells, cooked al dente
- 15 oz low-fat ricotta
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Arrange cubed butternut squash and diced onion in an even layer on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper; toss well to coat and roast for 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. When sausage is mostly browned, add spinach and garlic. Cook until spinach is wilted and remove from heat.
- Place roasted butternut squash and onion in a food processor along with the milk and broth; pulse until a smooth. Pour butternut squash sauce into base of a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sausage mixture with the ricotta, Parmesan, and egg until well-combined.
- Fill cooked pasta shells with 3-4 tablespoons of filling. Arrange shells in butternut squash sauce in the 9×13 baking dish.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve hot.