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Vegan stuffed shells with cashew ricotta cheese and spinach

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Easily make your own vegan, ricotta-style cheese for stuffed pasta shells

Try an Italian favorite that is creamy, rich and vegan. These stuffed shells have it all… except cheese. Instead of using ricotta cheese like traditional recipes, I made my own version with cashews, tofu, spinach and a handful of seasonings. You'll love this nondairy, vegan version of an Italian classic.

Easily make your own vegan, ricotta-style cheese for stuffed pasta shells

If I had to describe the dish in one word (which would be tough), I'd have to pick "creamy." Stuffed shells is a classic Italian dish, but many people prefer to make theirs dairy-free and vegan.

Easily make your own vegan, ricotta-style cheese for stuffed pasta shells

The word up and down the streets is that cashew cream is easy to make, and it makes a great vegan sub for sour cream, cream, mayo and cheese. It's also good to use as part of a ricotta-style filling for stuffed shells. I added tofu and a few other ingredients, and blended in wilted spinach to give this dish flavor and a pretty green hue. Keep in mind that you'll need to soak the cashews for about eight hours, so give yourself time for that step before starting this recipe. It's so easy… and creamy!

Vegan stuffed shells with cashew ricotta cheese and spinach recipe

After you prepare the stuffed shells for baking, sprinkle a few pinches of nutritional yeast over the top. It's a tasty substitute for Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

Prep time: 8 hours 15 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes | Total time: 8 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, covered in filtered water and soaked about 8 hours, then drained
  • 8 ounces silken tofu, drained
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onions
  • 3 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 18 jumbo pasta shells
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce
  • Nutritional yeast, as garnish
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with the nonstick spray, and set it aside.
  2. In a food processor, combine the cashews, tofu, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, zest, rosemary, salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes. Pulse until smooth. Leave the mixture in the food processor, and set it aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the shells to a pot of salted, boiling water. Boil, uncovered, for about 9 minutes. Remove the shells from the water, and let them drain.
  4. To a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until they begin to soften. Turn off the heat, and add the spinach to the skillet. Mix until the spinach wilts.
  5. Transfer the spinach and onions to the food processor. Pulse until the spinach is in small pieces and incorporated into the cashew mixture.
  6. Spread about 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Use a small spoon to fill each shell with the cashew mixture until full. Place the shells open side up into the baking dish so they are snug.
  7. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells. If using, sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the tops. Cover with foil, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven. Garnish with torn parsley leaves, and serve warm.

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