This vegan stuffed shells recipe transforms the traditional comfort food dish filled with cheese into a yummy meal that anyone can enjoy! You’ll make a quick tofu ricotta for these jumbo shells and then top with your favorite pasta sauce and a vegan mozzarella.
You are going to love this vegan-ized version of the classic comfort food recipe, stuffed shells! We love serving this when the weather is cold during the fall and winter months. It’s makes for a delicious and relatively easy meal when paired with a simple steamed vegetable on the side or a salad like this lemony kale caesar or this vegan Italian chopped salad.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- There’s no chopping involved in this recipe! Love when I don’t have to wash my cutting board.
- Unlike a lot of stuffed shells recipes, the tofu ricotta for these shells needs no cashews.
- Great for meal prep since one recipe can feed a crowd and leftovers reheat well. I love packing these in my lunch for work.
- Freezer friendly so perfect if you want to save leftovers for future use.
- This recipe is vegan, dairy free, egg free, nut free, and can easily be made gluten free too.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Jumbo pasta shells: The most tedious part of making shells is the stuffing. Save yourself some headache by using jumbo sized shells. I use about 20 shells for this recipe since that fits well in my 8″x11″ baking dish. Make sure to cook a few extra shells in case some break!
- Pasta sauce: Use your favorite jarred or canned pasta sauce to make this recipe even simpler. You could also use a homemade sauce if you prefer – my small batch tomato sauce would be delicious with these!
- Tofu: Firm or extra firm tofu is best for the homemade spinach ricotta for these shells. No need to press it for this recipe, the extra moisture is needed for the ricotta. For a shortcut, you could purchase a vegan ricotta. There are a few different ones one the market now, but I haven’t had the chance to try any out.
- Nutritional Yeast: Adds some “cheesiness” to the vegan ricotta stuffing. Ran out of nutritional yeast? Here are 9 nutritional yeast substitutes to try.
- Red Wine Vinegar: Adds some acidity to the ricotta to balance out the flavor. You can also use fresh squeezed lemon juice.
- Spinach: For simplicity, I used thawed frozen spinach for the filling. You could also use fresh spinach (one 5 oz bag for this recipe) – just add to a skillet with a little olive oil and sauté until wilted. You want to avoid using raw spinach in the filling because it can get too watery when baking.
- Vegan Cheese: Crank up the comfort factor with some vegan mozzarella sprinkled on top of the shells before baking. I really like the vegan mozzarella shreds from VioLife as they melt nicely. You can also add some vegan parmesan too – here’s my favorite homemade vegan parmesan recipe!
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Step by Step
Step One: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil on the stovetop. Add shells and cook to al dente according to package directions. (Mine took about 8 minutes for jumbo shells).
Step Two: Meanwhile, make your tofu ricotta by adding the tofu, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red wine vinegar to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Stir in thawed frozen spinach and set aside.
Step Three: Add frozen spinach to the microwave to thaw. Add ricotta to the thawed spinach and stir.
Step Four: Add 1/2 cup of sauce to the bottom of your baking dish. Fill with your cooked shells. (I used about 20 jumbo shells.)
Step Five: Use a spoon or a piping bag to fill each shell with the tofu ricotta.
Step Six: Spoon the rest of the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with vegan shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake.
Step Seven: Garnish with chopped parsley or basil to serve.
Stuffed Shells Tips:
- Stuff the shells more efficiently: Filling your shells with the ricotta can get a bit messy so try this trick! Add your tofu ricotta to a piping bag or gallon size Ziplock bag with one of the corners cut off. You can then easily pipe the filling into the shells.
- Cook a few extra shells: No matter how gentle you try to be, a few of your shells will likely break when cooking. I generally throw in an extra 5 shells or so when cooking just in case.
- Cover your shells: You’ll want to cover your stuffed shells with aluminum foil for the first part of the baking time so they don’t get too crispy/crunchy. You can also avoid crisp edges by evenly spooning the sauce over the top of the shells before baking.
What to serve with Vegan Stuffed Shells
Serve these vegan shells with a salad, steamed veggies, or roasted veggies. While the shells are baking, it’s easy enough to steam a bit of broccoli or green beans on the stovetop. You could even roast a pan of veggies in the oven at the same time as the shells. We love this oven roasted cabbage recipe. There are so many great salad options that would be delicious! Here are a few of my favorites for pairing with these stuffed shells: kale apple walnut salad, lemon kale caesar salad, white bean pesto salad with arugula, strawberry spinach salad.
Make Ahead and Storage
- Make Ahead: Prepare shells as directed in the recipe until the baking step. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge for 1-2 days before baking. You can also freeze for up to 3 months until you are ready to bake. To bake from frozen, add an extra 20-30 minutes to the baking time.
- Fridge: Allow leftover cooked shells to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge covered or in an airtight container. Leftovers will keep for up to 3 days. To reheat, add single portion to the microwave and cook until hot. You can also reheat the whole dish in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.
- Freezer: Allow cooked shells to cool to room temperature and then store in the baking dish after wrapping it tightly or transfer individual portions in containers to freeze. Shells can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Make this recipe gluten free with just one swap – use gluten free pasta instead of traditional pasta shells.
As you’ll see in the recipe card below, we recommend cooking the shells to al dente before baking. There is not enough liquid for the shells to cook while in the oven so they need to be boiled first. Make sure to cook until al dente (about 1-2 minutes less than the full cook time on the package).
I just pop the frozen spinach for the shell filling in the microwave for a minute or two to thaw. Squeeze or drain off any excess moisture if needed before adding the spinach to your ricotta filling. You can also add the frozen spinach to a fine mesh strainer and run under hot water until thawed.
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Vegan Stuffed Shells
For the Shells
- 25 jumbo pasta shells
- 24 oz jar pasta sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook the Shells
- Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When finished, drain through a colander, rinse under cold water, and set cooked pasta aside.
Make the Ricotta
- Add the tofu, nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the thawed spinach and red wine vinegar.
- In a 8"x11" baking dish, pour in 1/2 cup of the sauce and spread evenly in the pan. Arrange shells on top of the sauce. Stuff each shell with ~1 heaping tablespoon of cheese filling. Repeat until you've filled all the shells and run out of cheese filling.
- Sprinkle with the shredded vegan mozzarella if using.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve!
- To thaw frozen spinach: add to the microwave for a minute or two to thaw. Squeeze or drain off any excess moisture if needed before adding the spinach to your ricotta filling. You can also add the frozen spinach to a fine mesh strainer and run under hot water until thawed.
- Homemade sauce: Check out my small batch tomato sauce.
- Red Wine Vinegar Alternative: One tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice can be used in the ricotta instead of red wine vinegar.
- Leftovers: Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. Shells can be frozen for up to 3 months.