Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells with Winter Vegetables
Okay. It’s no surprise I love making pasta. Fresh pasta. From scratch. But let’s be real, even the most skilled pasta maker likes something comforting, quickly. A Pasta dish I can make ahead of time (if needed) and just throw in the oven…
A comfort meal I can load with delicious winter vegetables so I can get my daily dose of nutrition with my carbs and cheesy goodness.
And maybe, just maybe, something that can fool even the harshest child critic.
A mixture of naughty and nice, this delicious recipe combines the comfort of Mac n Cheese but is loaded with kale, broccoli, butternut squash and pancetta. It’s a enhanced version of an all time favorite!
Pancetta gives a good kick of salty flavor and needed texture. That said, if you are a vegetarian the pancetta can easily be omitted without sacrificing flavor. And, of course, the pop of chili I put in everything.. even my coffee, kicks up this mid-week meal to the next level.
- 1/2 stick butter unsalted preferred but salted is ok too
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3-4 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese You can switch it up for any kind of cheese. I enjoy a good Gruyere and some Beer Cheese for more flavor
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne Or more if you prefer a little more kick
- 1 teaspoon Chili powder
- 2 teaspoons salt Or to taste
- 1 teaspoon pepper Or to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2-4 thick slices pancetta About 1 cm thick and diced. Omit for Vegetarian
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 mall to medium sweet onion Diced
- 3 cloves garlic Minced
- 1 1/2 cups Diced Butternut Squash (Frozen) I bought mine from Loblaws but you can find at many grocers or boil butternut squash and dice.
- 1 1/2 cups Brocolli Chopped to inch or smaller pieces
- 2 handfuls Kale emoved from the stalk and loosely chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons chili flakes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
In a medium sauce pan on medium to medium high heat melt butter. Once butter is melted, add flour and stir until a thick paste forms. Gradually add milk about a cup at a time and whisk until desired consistency. Make sure to allow time between adding milk. It’ll start off thick but will gradually thin out. Add cheese and mix until smooth. If sauce is still too thick, add a little more milk.
Season sauce with Cayenne, Nutmeg, Chili Powder, Dry Mustard, Garlic Powder, Lemon Juice, Salt and Pepper. Cook for an additional 5-8 minutes and set aside.
In a medium to large pan on medium heat, add diced pancetta. Cook for about 10 minutes and set aside on a paper towel. In same pan, add oil, diced onion and a pinch of salt. Cook onion until it is just about translucent. Add kale, cubes of butternut squash, broccoli and garlic. Saute until broccoli is cooked through but still slightly crunchy (about 10 minutes). Add cooked pancetta and chili flakes, Mix until well combined. Set aside.
Meanwhile boil a large pot of water and cook pasta shells until Al dente. They should be cooked through but not super soft. Strain and set aside.
In your desired casserole dish, pour cheese sauce on the bottom of the dish until covered about 1/2 inch. Line pasta shells in the casserole dish allowing the viscosity of the sauce to keep them upright.
Take remaining cheese sauce and pour into the mix of vegetables until just coated in sauce. Mix well.
Using a spoon, fill shells with vegetable mixture. Top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 10 minutes). I hit the broil at the very end to give some added crunch.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes then serve.