These are the vegan stuffed shells dreams are made of! Jumbo shells are filled with creamy almond ricotta, pan-roasted garden vegetables, and herbs; smothered with tomato sauce and cashew mozzarella, and baked to perfection.
I went many years of my life putting riffs on tofu ricotta in my dairy-free stuffed shells, and it was a good life indeed. But, life got even better once I discovered almond ricotta and started putting it in my vegan dishes. It’s better in vegan stuffed shells because:
- It’s richer and creamier and the flavor is versatile in terms of sauce options
- It has a better texture for shell-stuffing (more fluid before baking, and thus easier to stuff the pasta fully; firmer after baking yet still rich)
- Omnivores don’t start backing away slowly when you mention the word “almond”, the way they do with “tofu”
I wanted my vegan stuffed shells to have a little something “extra”, so I stir-fried some zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper with olive oil and herbs. Folded together with the almond ricotta, it makes for a flavorful garden vegetable filling that is at-home here with spicy tomato sauce but would also pair beautifully with a more delicate dairy-free cream- or olive oil-based sauce if you prefer.
This weekend we were slurping down a batch of these vegan stuffed shells and discussing whether we preferred them or my vegan lasagna. This was followed by the quick realization that aside from the garden veggie filling, these stuffed shells are almost precisely my lasagna in shell form. Both versions are a bit of a pain in the ass to make, so choose your poison I guess! The good news is that both of them are also amazingly delicious, and worth the effort!
The stuffed shells recipe on my pasta box called for mixing mozzarella and ricotta together inside the shells. Because my mozzarella-style cashew cheese isn’t shreddable, I opted instead to dollop it all over the top of the casserole. Also taking a cue from the pasta box, I topped the whole thing with some almond parmesan, because the recipe didn’t have enough nuts in it already :D.
Feel free to mix up the filling in your vegan stuffed shells, swapping my suggested veggies for your favorites, or mushrooms if you’re into that. I have recipes on the site for fresh tomato marinara and bursted cherry tomato sauce, if you like. But let’s be real, I used Rao’s this time because I had a $3 off coupon. I hope that you enjoy this hearty vegetarian comfort dish!
Garden Vegetable Vegan Stuffed Shells
Decadent-tasting vegan stuffed shells with almond ricotta and cashew mozzarella from scratch, and a garden vegetable medley.
For the vegan stuffed shells and assembly:
For the garden vegetable and almond ricotta filling (can be prepared in advance):
- 1/2 batch almond ricotta (1.5 cups) (can be prepared in advance)
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour (optional but recommended)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot diced
- 1 zucchini diced
- 1 yellow squash diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, parsley, or basil, or a mixture
Prepare the cashew mozzarella and almond ricotta recipes and and set aside until ready to use.
Cook the jumbo pasta shells to al dente in salted water, according to package instructions. After cooking, drain the shells (but do not rinse them) and spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, cutting board or piece of foil so that they don't stick together.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables for the filling. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet. Add the shallot, zucchini, squash, and red pepper along with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, or until the veggies are starting to brown nicely and have shrunk in size. Remove from the heat. Stir in the chopped fresh herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a mixing bowl, fold the vegetables into the almond ricotta. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Stir in the chickpea flour until combined. (Raw chickpea flour tastes very bad).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Fill each jumbo shell with approximately 3 tablespoons of the ricotta-vegetable mixture (I eyeball this and just fill them full). Line up the shells in the baking dish.
Pour the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups of tomato sauce over and around the stuffed shells. Finally, dollop the cashew mozzarella on top as evenly as you can. The mixture can be pretty gloopy so this isn't the easiest to do 🙂 Optionally, also brush a little bit of olive oil on top for more browning.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Optionally, remove the foil and broil for another 3 to 4 minutes, watching carefully for browning/burning, to get a better crust on the cashew mozzarella.
Serve hot. Leftovers keep well. If you'd like to freeze this dish I recommend doing so without the cashew mozzarella, and adding that when reheating.
WHOLE WHEAT: Crowd-sourcing this one. I haven't been able to find whole wheat jumbo shells in any store OR online. If you know where to find them, let us know in the comments! If you'd like to make this dish whole wheat, try rolling up the filling in WW lasagna noodles.
GLUTEN-FREE/WHOLE GRAIN: Tinkyada Brown Rice Grand Shells are available online, although I haven't come across them in a brick-and-mortar store.
NUT-FREE OPTION: Use your favorite nut-free mozzarella-style sauce or omit. For the filling, use tofu-cauliflower ricotta.
OIL-FREE: To keep this dish oil-free use an oil-free tomato sauce, and cook the vegetables without oil in a non-stick pan (or roast them).
UNUSED SHELL PASTA TIP: Usually I boil a whole 12 oz. package of jumbo shells all at once and fill as many as my filling and baking dish will accommodate; amounts here are approximate. With the remaining cooked shells, I use a sharp knife to cut them into strips and then use them as short noodles in another pasta dish.
*Recipe adapted from the back of the box of San Giorgi Jumbo Shells and from my vegan lasagna recipe.
*Special thanks to my boyfriend for scooping up the vegan stuffed shells while I took pictures. It takes a village, y’all.