I am not vegan. Though there are some vegan practices I adopt for one reasons or another. And I always love trying vegan recipes. So when I saw this recipe for Cheese-Free Stuffed Shells I was curious to see how it would turn out. The cheesy part of these is actually well-seasoned extra firm tofu. When you blend extra firm tofu it has a really great texture, similar to ricotta. Although I had a healthy amount of skepticism going into this one, this recipe actually turned out great. I have to say it was tasty and I absolutely love it. Does it really taste like cheese? No, not really, but it carries the same weight as cheese. That is to say that the tofu mixture holds up well on its own. And here is what I love about this recipe and why I think, even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, you should work this into your meal rotation. Cheese has a good amount of fat in it. This recipe is an amazing way to get the kind of stuffed shell recipe that is really tasty and satisfying with only a mere fraction of the fat and calories that you find in cheese. And if you DO eat cheese….then you can sprinkle real cheese over the top of these shells. That way you can have the best of both worlds: you can have the lower fat of the tofu stuffed shells with just a little dab of the real cheese taste on top. I think that’s a great way to make an exception while still cutting a massive load of fat from your meal. Give it a shot this week!
Cheese-Free Stuffed Shells
16 jumbo pasta shells
½ jar marinara sauce(about 13 oz.)
1 15-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained
½ medium-sized onion, peeled and quartered
5 oz. frozen chopped spinach (about ½ cup), thawed and drained
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup shredded Cheddar-style soy cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain, and rinse under cold water.
3. As the pasta is cooking, spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
4. Put the tofu and all remaining ingredients except the soy cheese in a food processor and purée.
5. Transfer the tofu mixture to a 1-gallon sealable plastic bag.
6. Snip off a bottom corner of bag and squeeze about 3 Tbs. tofu mixture into each shell.
7. Arrange the shells over the sauce in the baking dish.
8. Drizzle the shells with remaining sauce and cover tightly with foil.
9. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil, sprinkle shells with cheese and bake another 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. If you want, you can turn on the broiler for this last step, to get a little bit of brown crust on your nice cheese.