Growing up, we had a neighbor that made the best Italian food. She made shells with homemade sauce and ground meat served bubbly with cheese and stuffed to the brim with fresh ricotta. I was never able to find a place that made stuffed shells like hers, even before I was vegan, but it was nearly impossible to find something similar after. I’ve been trying for a long time to find something that had the right texture and flavor to bring back all of those memories for me, and I’m happy to say that I have finally found it.
When these came out of the oven, the smell instantly brought back memories of my childhood and once they were in my mouth, I swear I teared up. These are that good, TRUST. The combination of the tofu & the cashews make the ricotta fluffy but robust in taste and the sauce is just the way I like it, bright & acidic with just a hint of sweetness. There are a lot of ways to customize this recipe, but honestly, I love my shells with just cheese. I’ll list some options below so you can make them your perfect stuffed shells.
6 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
Half an onion, diced
18 oz. Diced tomatoes in Juice
18 oz Can plain tomato sauce
1 package Seitan (we used Italian flavored but you can flavor it separately, or make your own! This recipe from the PPK is awesome)
1 t Sugar
1 T Oregano
1 T Thyme
1 C Chickn’ Broth
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3 handfuls of fresh basil (chopped roughly)
1 block Extra firm tofu
2 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
1 cup nooch
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Box of pasta shells
First, cook the pasta as instructed on the package, I usually take it off a minute early so I don’t run the risk of over cooking them. While the pasta is cooking, start your sauce. When the noodles are done (should be around the time the seitan is done cooking, drain the shells and run them under cold water to stop the cooking and allow the shells to cool down so they are easier to handle.
Sautee garlic & onion until translucent
Add in seitan and cook for an additional five minutes
Add in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chickn’ broth, and dried spices, allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Blend with a hand blender (or you can also put it in a real blender) and blend until slightly chunky and thicker.
Let simmer for 10 minutes, add in the basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Blend together the ingredients for the ricotta, adding water when needed. It should be thick enough to be spooned into the shells but not at all chunky.
Grab a baking pan (I used a 9”x13” & a smaller one (I didn’t measure, sorry!) and filled them both but depending on how close you stack them, you may be able to cram them into one pan. Start by spreading a little bit of the sauce on the bottom, using a soup spoon, scoop the ricotta into the shells and place into the baking sheet. Once the shells are full, cover them in sauce and top with your favorite cheese (or the ricotta, if you have any leftover). Bake 20-30 minutes on 350 or until heated through.
Options: If you’re allergic to cashews, this can definitely & easily be made with just the tofu ricotta just sub in an extra block of tofu for the cashews. Also, you can add in seitan to the stuffing for the shells if you’re looking for something with more texture. I also really like mixing in a cheese like daiya with the stuffing so it’s a little bit more melty.cashew ricotta, Gillian, Gillian Kreft, Italian, stuffed shells, tofu ricotta, vegan home cooking, vegan italian, vegan pasta, vegan stuffed shells