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Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

I’ve had some run-ins with vegan ‘cheese’ before.  The kind that send you screaming for big bites of cheddar straight from the block.  People use the term ‘cheese’ rather liberally when it comes to substitution like nutritional yeast and cashews.  All of it (until now) has left me with my eyebrows raised and a real hunk of cheese grasped firmly in my hand.  

That being said… we need to talk about ricotta and cauliflower and how I’ve (momentarily) relaxed that deathgrip of by block of cheese.  Ok? 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

These stuffed shells (the very first shells I’ve ever stuffed) are filled with the best vegan version of ricotta I’ve come across.  Steamed cauliflower is pulsed to a puree with pine nuts, nutmeg, pepper, fresh parsley, and (of all surprising but appropriate things) fresh orange juice.  The texture is spot on.  The consistency is thumbs up.  The flavor is well… totally mild and delicious.  Exactly what you’d expect from ricotta and what you’d hope from its vegan counterpart. 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

This recipe comes from the new book Lo So Good by Jessica of Sodium Girl.  She lives a low sodium diet and has written a beautiful cookbook with flavorful, unique recipes that feature flavor over sodium.  I love that this cauliflower recipe used a cheese substitute.  I really didn’t miss the dairy in the shells.  These are delicious! 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

The cauliflower + pine nut mixture is pulsed and run to smooth in a food processor.  In a bowl we’ll mix together spicy Italian sausage (plain ground pork for low sodium option), cauliflower ricotta, fresh basil, and ground allspice.  Simple and really satisfying filling. 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

The bottom of the casserole dish is covered in butternut squash soup.  

If you don’t have the time or energy to make fresh soup, packaged butternut squash soup would also work very well, as would a jarred marinara sauce.  Choose your adventure! 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

Shells are filled with a heaping 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling.  

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

And nestled cozy inside the soup.  

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

The shells are ladled with soup, covered with foil, and the mixture is baked to bubbling.  

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

After baking and broiling the soup is thickened, the noodles are browned, and the filling is warmed through.  

It’s all very good news!  It’s dinner. 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce

This recipe called for no sodium. I have a salt-tooth (just like a sweet tooth but different) and added a few pinches of salt here and there. If you’re salt sensitive, Lo So Good is a fantastic book and if you’re not, enjoy the recipes and add a pinch of salt where you’d like! 

Cauliflower Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Sauce
Serves 6
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For the Butternut Squash Soup
  1. 1 red bell pepper
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  9. (salt if using)
  10. 4 cups water or vegetable broth
For the Filling
  1. 2 1/2 cups roughly chopped cauliflower, steamed or boiled and cooled slightly
  2. 3/4 cup unsalted pine nuts
  3. pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  4. 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  6. (salt to taste if you're a salt eater)
  7. 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  8. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
To Assemble
  1. 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
  2. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  3. 4 ounces ground pork, spicy Italian sausage, or grated zucchini
  4. 2 1/2 cups cauliflower filling (recipe above)
  5. handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  6. 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  7. (salt to taste if you're a salt eater)
  8. 4 cups butternut squash soup (recipe above)
Instructions
  1. To make the soup, start by charring the red pepper over the flame of a gas stove top. Char until blackened on all sides. Once blackened, place warm pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to steam for 15 minutes before peeling the pepper with the back of a spoon and slicing the flesh away from the seeded core.
  2. Place olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transluscent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the butternut squash and red pepper pieces and toss to combine. Stir in the spices, pepper and salt if using. Add the broth and bring the mixture to a simmer, simmering until the butternut squash is completely soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Use an immersion blender to blend to soup smooth and simmer for another 15 minutes to reduce.
  4. To make the cauliflower filling, boil or steam cauliflower until fork tender, about 6 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place the cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Add pine nuts, nutmeg, garlic powder, pepper, salt (if using), and orange juice. Pulse until well combined and beginning to smooth. Add the parsley and a bit of water if necessary and run the food processor until the mixture is the texture of ricotta, about 2 minutes.
  6. To assemble the shells place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Boil pasta shells in salted water to al dente. Drain and set aside.
  8. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook pork or sausage (leave zucchini raw) breaking up with the back of a spoon, until cooked through.
  9. In a medium bowl, stir together cauliflower ricotta, cooked meat (or raw zucchini), half of the fresh basil, allspice, and a good pinch of salt if using. Stir to combine.
  10. Place 11/2 cups of soup to the bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of filling into each shell and place shells face up in the soup.
  11. When dish is full, pour remaining 1 1/2 cups more soup over the shells. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, add the remaining 1 cup of soup and bake for 15 minutes more. Turn the oven to broil and broil until the top is browned, about 5 minutes.
  12. Allow to cool before 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with remaining fresh basil and enjoy warm.
Notes
  1. To make this recipe easier, use a packaged butternut squash soup or even a marinara sauce to coat the shells in instead of the homemade soup!
Adapted from Lo So Good
Adapted from Lo So Good
Joy the Baker http://joythebaker.com/