Vegan Stuffed Shells with Homemade Spinach-Tofu Ricotta

I had a craving, and decided to revisit this old recipe for vegan stuffed shells. It’s a classic entree that still pleases many. And although it involves a few steps, it’s actually quite easy to make. I would even recommend it for novice dairy-free cooks.

The vegan pasta is stuffed with a tofu “ricotta,” which helps make this a higher protein, plant-based meal. If you want to “beef up” the recipe even more, you can saute mushrooms, ground meat, or vegan ground round and add them to the sauce before layering it on. Or, for more veggie-love, you can serve these vegan stuffed shells with a side salad, asparagus, or broccoli.
It has been nearly a dozen years since I originally made and posted this recipe here on Go Dairy Free, so I’ve updated the recipe quite a bit. It’s now got clearer instructions and our simple special diet format. I honestly don’t recall where the idea for this recipe originally came from, but I do recall enjoying it very much!

The dairy-free ricotta mixture, steps 1 through 4, can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

  • 1 (12- to 14-ounce) package extra-firm or firm tofu (not silken), drained
  • 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt + additional, to taste
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (24- to 28-ounce) jar dairy-free marinara
  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons basil
  • Black pepper, to taste

  1. Place ¾ of the tofu in your food processor or blender. Add the nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and nutmeg and process until smooth.
  2. Remove the tofu mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining tofu and mash until it resembles ricotta.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute.
  4. Squeeze excess liquid from the spinach. Add the spinach, cooked onions and garlic, oregano, and basil to the "ricotta" mixture and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  6. Cook the shells according to the package directions. Drain and rinse them under cold water.
  7. Pour enough marinara in a 9x9-inch or 9x13-inch baking dish to just cover the bottom. Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture, and place them in the baking dish. Pour the remaining marinara over the shells.
  8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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