As I was sitting here trying to finish up this post I took my eyes off my dog for a few minutes and she managed to steal my friends glasses and eat them into oblivion.
This is my life and this is why I am struggling to get enthusiastic about the holiday. I can’t even keep my dog from shredding every single item that crosses her path, what is she going to do a Christmas tree?
Every year I suffer from the syndrome of good intentions. I want to transform my home into a winter wonderland of beauty and wonder, bake dozens of cookies to gift to friends and handcraft each and every item I gift.
The month of December is one where I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, snarling at everyone to just stay out of my way. I want to enjoy the holiday and my family so I’m trying to pick just a few projects and keep things simple. However we are hosting a large party in a few weeks so I’ll let you know how that goes.
Having dishes that I can prepare ahead of time and freeze really helps out with staying on task. This is a dish that makes a pretty fair amount and I usually make extra so that I can take it out of the freezer and have a home cooked meal on the table without any preparation.
The shells are stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, Parmesan and Swiss chard. The chard adds a nice texture and helps lighten the dish a bit. You can serve them with your favorite tomato sauce but this butternut squash sauce is sublime. Rich, creamy and slightly sweet I can eat it by the spoonful. The addition of the apple cider vinegar really brightens the flavors and balances the natural sweetness of the squash. I think I might try just tossing it with a little spaghetti next time and adding a few fried sage leaves and hazelnuts.
I hope you all a sane and beautiful holiday. Enjoy your friends and family and don’t worry about everything being perfect. I’m going to try my hardest to do the same. Be sure to visit me at www.scalingbackblog.com for more recipes!
Stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce
For the sauce:
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)
½ medium red onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
For the filling:
1 pound Swiss chard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
1 cup grated mozzarella
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
20-25 jumbo dried pasta shells
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a large, sharp knife, trim the ends of the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Peel with a vegetable peeler. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. On a baking sheet toss the butternut squash and onion with the olive oil, chili flakes and salt. Roast until the squash is tender, about 40 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Transfer squash to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add apple cider vinegar, chicken stock and half and half, process until smooth adding a little more stock if needed to thin if necessary. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Cook the shells according to directions in well-salted water until al dente. Drain and let cool enough to handle with your hands. Lightly oil a large baking dish or several smaller dishes.
To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl
Remove the stems from the Swiss chard and finely chop and slice the rest of the leaves into ribbons. Add the chard stems to a medium skillet with the tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften and then add the rest of the chard and cook until wilted. Let cool slightly before adding to the ricotta mixture.
Spread a 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of a lightly oiled 9x13 inch baking dish or several smaller dishes. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, uncover for the last 15 minutes or until the shells are hot and cooked through. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve.