Vegan Butternut Squash Sage Stuffed Shells
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- 2 lbs 3 bags Stahlbush Island Farms chopped butternut squash
- 7 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tbsp light miso (eg. shiro)
- salt & ground black pepper, to taste
For the Filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 14 oz firm tofu, drained
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (can sub with rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice)
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
- 2 vegan sausages, crumbled or diced apple sage or mild Italian are best here
- 4 cups, packed baby spinach leaves, or 4 oz frozen, thawed, chopped, and water squeezed out
- coarse salt and fresh pepper, to serve fried sage for garnish, if desired
For the Noodles:
- Boil the noodles in water for half the time their packaging instructs you to. It’s best to under-cook them so they don’t fall apart while you’re trying to fill them, and don’t become mushy when they are baked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of oil so they don’t stick together. Keep covered so they don’t dry out.
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cubed butternut squash on the baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of oil. Ensure all of the pieces are evenly coated, and spread in a single layer on the pan for even roasting. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender and there’s some browning, tossing once. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add in the flour, and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes. This mixture (white roux) should bubble and smell fragrant. Slowly whisk in the plant-based milk, and bring up to a simmer. Continue whisking and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
- Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor. Add in the nutmeg, miso, white balsamic vinegar, miso paste and 1 cup of the roasted butternut squash. Blend until completely smooth, taking care that the lid is secure so you don’t get burned.
For the Ricotta:
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and starting to become translucent, about 2 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, tofu, vinegar, salt, and sage. Pulse until combined, but there’s still some texture (it shouldn’t be a paste.)
- Over medium heat in the same skillet you fried your onions in, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the crumbled sausages and cook for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add in the spinach, stirring to encourage it to wilt. Remove from heat. Add in the tofu ricotta and remaining roasted butternut squash, stirring gently so as not to mash the squash.
- Spread the sauce in a 9 x 13″ casserole dish (or 12″ round skillet as pictured). Fill each shell generously with the sausage ricotta mixture, and fit them snugly into the pan over the sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly throughout. Enjoy!