Butternut Squash Manicotti is a wonderful light and healthy pasta that is perfect for Autumn. The star of the dish is the mashed, baked butternut squash laced with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The manicotti is assembled by rolling the savory butternut squash filling in thin, soft crepes. The crepes are covered with a white Bechamel sauce for extra creaminess and baked. Garnish with roasted, salted pumpkin seeds for a perfect finish.
Butternut Squash Manicotti can be made with traditional sheets of thin pasta dough rolled into a tube called manicotti or cannelloni, or like this version, with soft "crespelles" or Italian crepes. Crepes are thinner and lighter than pasta dough. They were my choice for a light and healthier version with a butternut squash filling. If you are filling the shells with a meat and ricotta cheese filling, choosing heartier pasta is better. Yes, you can use store-bought manicotti or cannelloni shells for this recipe. Cannelloni is very similar to manicotti but thinner (like candles) and without the ridges. However, I argue that making crepes is faster than par-boiling noodles.
Here is a step-by-step guide.
Butternut Squash Manicotti with Bechamel Sauce and Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 large butternut squash seeded, peeled and cubed (about 4-5 cups)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon Allspice
- ½ teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 cup flour
- 1-¼ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 extra large eggs
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Bechamel Sauce
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 ¾ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt Salt
- ½ teaspoon White pepper
- ½ teaspoon grated Nutmeg
- Pumpkin seeds roasted and salted
- Butternut Squash Filling:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place cubed squash on a sheet plan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 40 minutes until fork tender and slightly caramelized.
- Transfer the baked squash to a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher, allowing for some small chunks for texture. Add spices and mix to combine.
- Set aside while making the crepes. The butternut squash filling can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before assembling and baking.
- Put milk, olive oil and eggs in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the flour ½ cup at a time and blend. Scrape down the side and blend until the batter is a thin, velvety smooth paste without lumps.
- Preheat an 7-inch nonstick sauté pan, or a crepe pan, over medium high heat on the stovetop. Add ¼ teaspoon (tiny piece) butter and swirl around to grease the pan. Too much butter will cause the crepes to brown too fast.
- When the butter and pan are hot, add ¼ cup batter to the pan and quickly swirl the pan around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. If the batter is too thick for the first crepe to spread easily in the pan, then add a touch of water or milk to the rest of the batter to thin it out.
- Cook the crepe for approximately 20 seconds or until the edges have started to turn golden. Using a small spatula or butter knife, lift the edge and flip the crepe over to the other side and cook for another 20 seconds until slightly golden. Transfer the crepe to parchment paper.
- Continue making the crepes with the remaining batter. Layer the crepes between sheets of parchment paper as you go. If you aren’t using the crepes right away, wrap the stack in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze for up to one month.
- Bechamel Sauce:
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add flour and whisk to create a roux. Cook for approximately 1-2 minutes or until the roux starts to bubble and to turn white. Add ½ cup of milk at a time and whisk briskly until a smooth sauce is created. Hold the last ¼ cup of milk as extra until you get a thick, smooth, pourable sauce. More or less milk may needed. Mix in the white pepper and nutmeg. Keep the Bechamel sauce warm until needed for assembly.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Ladle enough Bechamel in a 13 X 9 baking pan to cover the bottom.
- Place 1 - 2 tablespoons of butternut squash filling on one crepe. Roll and tuck the end under. Place the crepe in the pan. Continue stuffing and rolling the crepes until the pan is filled.
- Ladle more Bechamel sauce over the top of the crepes. Reserve some sauce for serving. Cover the pan with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and garnish with pumpkin seeds.
- Serve with extra hot Bechamel sauce.