Jumbo Stuffed Shells (Ricotta recipe included!)
My husband's side of the family is Italian, so every time we have a family gathering there is a huge Italian meal to enjoy. I didn't grow up with a lot of homemade Italian food, but I have learned over the years that a whole lot of heart goes into every dish. While the recipe below is not a traditional one, as it is vegan and oil free, I do think that it is delicious, and when I sent photos to my husband's grandma she gave it her seal of approval. (Always a bonus!) I told her that I would have to make these for her the next time we are able to safely have a meal together, because I think she would love them.
I am including my ricotta recipe in this post, because buying vegan cheeses can get very expensive, which I am not really here for! I believe the huge batch of ricotta came out to about $2.00, which is insane when you think about spending $8 on a tiny container of vegan ricotta or cream cheese at the store.
So, the ricotta recipe is super easy, very affordable even with the cashews, and tastes just as good as the store bought stuff. (If you have a nut allergy, just skip the cashews, it'll be fine!) The ricotta goes great in shells (duh!), lasagna, ravioli, really any pasta if we're being honest, but it can also be used as a dip or a spread! You can play around with the flavors, or you can totally leave out the herbs/spinach and leave it nice and simple, which is also delicious!
This meal comes together rather quickly, and is surprisingly low in calories for a pasta dinner.
I hope you all enjoy this meal! Don't forget to tag me if you decided to try it out. :)
Makes 2 servings. 5 stuffed shells per serving. ~313 cal per serving.
10 Jumbo Shells (+ a couple extra incase any break)
Salted Boiling Water
1 Cup+ Store bought or homemade Marinara Sauce
Fresh Basil for garnish (Optional)
78 g Yellow Onion, diced (1/2 onion)
6 g Fresh Garlic, minced (2 cloves)
1 Block Firm tofu, drained (Only $1.30 at Whole Foods!)
40 g raw cashews (~1/3 cup) (I get mine at Patel Brothers)
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
56 g Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained
Salt to taste
*This makes a large batch. You will have about 1/2 of this mixture left over for future recipes. (Do not freeze.)
If you don't think you'll use a large batch within one week, cut recipe in half.
Fill a large pot with water, add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil.
Once water is boiling, carefully add shells and gently. Reduce heat to medium and boil uncovered, stirring gently occasionally until pasta is tender, but still firm. (al Dente)
While you are waiting for the pasta to cook, sauté the diced onion in a non stick pan over medium heat, adding small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking or burning. Once onion begins to turn translucent, add mined garlic and stir. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are tender and very fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
Check on your pasta. If it is done, carefully drain the water from the pot and transfer the shells into sprayed a baking dish. Some shells may break, that's why you cooked extra, it's okay! Just be gentle as you work with them.
Put cashews and 1/2 cup of water into a high powered blender. Start on low and work your way up to medium high. We are not trying to make milk, we still want some cashew texture, but very small granules, not large chunks. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed and repeat until you have a textured "cream."
Add tofu, Italian seasoning, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes to the blender. Start on low and work your way up to medium. You are looking for a relatively smooth and uniform mixture, but not silky, you want some texture. Add cooked onions, garlic, and drained spinach. Pulse blender a few times until well incorporated. Add salt to taste.
If you have a piping bag (like for decorating cakes) this will come in handy at this point! If not, you can use a spoon and your fingers to fill the shells. If using a bag, make sure it is fitted with a large circle tip, (or just cut a large opening if you don't have tips) fill the bag as full as it will let you, while still being able to hold it properly without the ricotta spilling out the top. Gently hold the first shell in place and pipe 30g of filling into it. I accomplished this by putting my baking dish on my kitchen scale and piping until I saw 30 and then clearing after each shell. If you don't have a kitchen scale, 30 g is roughly 2 Tbsp.
Repeat step 7 until all shells are filled. Transfer remaining ricotta into a container with a lid and refrigerate for about 1 week. Do not freeze.
Pour 1 cup (or more, if you want 'em saucy!) over the tops of the shells (see photo) and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.
Remove foil and plate 5 shells. Top with fresh basil, if using, and a sprinkles of Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.