Vegan Stuffed Shells

BY : PUBLISHED : July 27th, 2022 UPDATED: August 5th, 2022

Vegan Stuffed Shells make the perfect comfort food! This easy-to-make stuffed shells recipe delivers big smiles and full bellies when served up for meals. It’s definitely a vegan baked pasta dish the whole family loves.

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completed Stuffed Shells in a white baking dish against a white background

It is another hit from The Friendly Vegan Cookbook that I wrote with my friend, Michelle Cehn (founder of World of Vegan) and I’m beyond excited to share it with you. Beware, they are slightly addictive!

Serve it up with vegan focaccia bread and a simple salad for an easy dinner.

If you want to discover more easy pasta inspiration I think you’ll love this vegan lasagna, spicy tomato basil pasta, and pumpkin pasta bake.

The Friendly Vegan Cookbook by Toni Okamoto & Michelle Cehn

Why You Will Love This Recipe

  • Made with tofu. Makes this dish a protein-rich main meal. 
  • Perfect for an Italian-inspired dinner. That's sure to be a hit!
  • Plant-based and vegan dinner that even your favorite meat-eaters will love.
  • The best dairy-free stuffed shell recipe!
  • Surprisingly EASY to make, PERFECT to make ahead for a dinner that looks like a million bucks!
  • Great for calculating portions in advance. If you calculate 3 to 4 shells per person you could serve between 6 to 8 people with one batch of this recipe.

Ingredients

This easy recipe for dairy-free stuffed shells relies on simple ingredients that are easy to pick up during a quick trip to the grocery store.

ingredients for Stuffed Shells against a white surface
  • Jumbo pasta shells: Any brand or variety will do since they cook according to the package instructions. 
  • Tofu: Firm or extra-firm works best for the vegan ricotta. You will need to press it before cooking with it. Here's a great guide to pressing tofu, if you need some extra guidance.
  • Aromatics: Chopped onion and fresh garlic cloves are the first layer of flavor when making homemade vegan stuffed shells.
  • Basil leaves: Making vegetable stuffed shells with fresh basil is highly recommended and be sure to have a few extra to use for garnish.
  • Dried herbs and spices: Dried oregano, salt, and black pepper are essential, and red chili pepper flakes add a nice spice to the dish, but you can leave it out for a less spicy version.
  • Nutritional Yeast: For 'cheesy' flavor.
  • Lemon: Use the juice of a medium-sized lemon freshly squeezed. This adds some brightness to the tofu ricotta filling.
  • Fresh spinach leaves: For color and extra nutrition to the tofu ricotta.
  • Marinara sauce: For the best flavor, use a homemade marinara or choose a store-bought pasta sauce that’s big on flavor.
  • Vegan cheese shreds: Completely optional but a little on the top makes it feel more like the traditional version.

TOP TIP: Save yourself the extra time, or you can get crafty and make a big batch of homemade marinara recipe (like the one in The Friendly Vegan Cookbook!). Prepping a big batch of homemade marinara for the week can make your weekly meals a lot more interesting.

How to Make Vegan Stuffed Shells

Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions!

It's super easy to make these tofu stuffed shells!

  • Start by boiling a large pot of water and cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the prebake cooking directions on the package. Then drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the tofu, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, red chili pepper flakes (if using), nutritional yeast, and lemon juice.
  • Pulse 15 times or until partially mixed. Add the spinach and pulse just a few more times until combined. The resulting texture should be ricotta-­like. Do not over pulse or your vegan ricotta will turn green!
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pour half of the marinara sauce into a 9 × 13 ­inch baking dish, spreading to evenly coat the bottom of the dish.
  • One by one, fill each cooked shell with a generous spoonful of the tofu ricotta filling and place it in the prepared baking dish. Continue until the tofu mixture is gone and the baking dish is filled. Sprinkle the vegan cheese (if using) on top.
  • Drizzle the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until the vegan cheese (if using it) is melted and the edges of the shells are lightly browned.
  • Garnish with the basil leaves. Serve immediately and enjoy hot.

Expert Tips

This preparation doesn’t have many difficult tips and tricks because of its simplicity but there are a few things to keep in mind. 

  • Families and large groups. These stuffed spinach shells are a perfect recipe to make for a family dinner and are easy to make to feed a larger group.
  • Don't overcook the pasta. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to even undercook them a bit. 
  • Rinse the pasta. After cooking in order to avoid the shells sticking together.
  • Use a piping bag. Makes adding the tofu to the shells easier.
  • Choose a good marinara. The tomato sauce is the life of this dish and that is why it is important to make sure it is packed with flavor.

FAQs 

What is the best way to stuff shells?

Jumbo shells can be a bit tricky to stuff. The most basic method is to simply scoop the filling into each shell using a spoon. The easiest method is using a pastry bag to squirt the filling into each shell. If you don’t have a pastry bag you can make your own by filling up a plastic bag with the filling and cutting off a small corner.

What is the difference between stuffed shells and manicotti?

The only difference is the shape of the pasta. Manicotti is a large slightly flat-tube pasta while jumbo shells are in the shape of a shell. They both have a similar filling and are served with marinara sauce.

Why are my stuffed shells watery?

The main culprit of a watery dish of stuffed shells is not draining the pasta or pressing the tofu enough. Be sure as much of the water is removed from these ingredients before making vegan stuffed shells.

completed Stuffed Shells in a white baking dish against a white background

Variations

  • Vegetable Stuffed Shells: If you want to make this vegan stuffed shells recipe with more veggies, it’s easy to do. I suggest adding sauteed vegetables such as mushrooms, eggplant, or squash to the marinara sauce. Just be sure to cook them enough that the liquid cooks out.
  • Layered Shells: If you’re feeling a bit lazy, consider making this with small or medium shells. Then layer them in a baking dish with the tofu mixture on top and finished off with the sauce and vegan cheese.

Storage

  • Leftovers: Allow the baked pasta to fully cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. 
  • Freezer: To freeze, prepare the shells, cover them well or store them in an airtight container and place them in the freezer for up to three months.
  • Reheat: Reheat vegan stuffed pasta shells in the microwave or transfer to an oven-safe container and cook covered with foil for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
  • Meal Prep Ahead: Vegan stuffed shells work perfectly for meal prep ahead. There are three easy ways to meal prep.
    1. Cook the ingredients separately and store them to assemble just before cooking and serving.
    2. Make the entire tray of stuffed shells in advance so it’s ready to simply throw in the oven and cook when ready to serve.
    3. Fully prepare the entire meal and simply reheat.
completed Stuffed Shells in a white baking dish against a white background

What to Serve with Vegan Tofu Stuffed Shells?

These vegetarian stuffed shells are a very filling recipe by themselves. I recommend making a nice light salad or some filling bread to go along with this recipe. Here are just a few of my favorites.

More Vegan Pasta Recipes

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

completed Stuffed Shells in a white baking dish against a white background
completed Stuffed Shells in a white baking dish against a white background

Vegan Stuffed Shells

Toni Okamoto
Vegan Stuffed Shells make the perfect Italian comfort food! This easy-to-make stuffed shells recipe delivers big smiles and full bellies when served up for meals. It’s definitely a vegan baked pasta dish the whole family loves.
5 from 30 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 335 kcal
METHOD Stove, Oven
DIET Vegan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (12-ounce) package of jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 (16-ounce) block of extra-firm tofu pressed
  • 1 medium yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup of packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes optional
  • 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • Juice of 1 of a medium lemon
  • 1 cup of packed spinach leaves
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar of flavorful marinara sauce (or 1 batch of the recipe on page 228), divided
  • ½ cup of vegan cheese shreds optional
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the prebake cooking directions on the package. Then drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking, and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the tofu, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, red chili pepper flakes (if using), nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Pulse 15 times or until partially mixed. Add the spinach and pulse just a few more times until combined. The resulting texture should be ricotta­like. Do not overpulse or your ricotta will turn green!
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pour half of the marinara sauce into a 9 × 13 ­inch baking dish, spreading to evenly coat the bottom of the dish.
  • One by one, fill each cooked shell with a generous spoonful of the tofu ricotta filling and place in the prepared baking dish. Continue until the tofu mixture is gone and the baking dish is filled. Sprinkle the vegan cheese (if using) on top.
  • Drizzle the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until the vegan cheese (if using) is melted and the edges of the shells are lightly browned. Garnish with the basil leaves (if using). Serve immediately and enjoy hot.

Notes

  • Families and large groups. These stuffed spinach shells are a perfect recipe to make for a family dinner and are easy to make to feed a larger group.
  • Don't overcook the pasta. As a matter of fact, it’s a good idea to even undercook them a bit. 
  • If the pasta shells are dry, add one cup of pasta water to the cooked shells.

Nutrition

Calories: 335kcalCarbohydrates: 57gProtein: 17gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.4gSodium: 1486mgPotassium: 727mgFiber: 5gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1071IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 87mgIron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedonaBudget! 🙂

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

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About Toni Okamoto

"They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
'Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways...
we got to start taking better care of ourselves " - Dead Prez

View all posts by Toni Okamoto

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Teodora says

    5 stars
    Love this! Such a nice recipe for summer days!

  2. Mallory says

    5 stars
    Love these stuffed shells! Super delicious and easy!!

  3. Bea Buono-Core says

    5 stars
    One of my favorites! Yum!

    • Andrea White says

      It's a forever classic! So good!

  4. Gina H. says

    5 stars
    We love these shells! It's definitely time to make them again. One of the best recipes we've ever tried 😀

    • Andrea White says

      Oh for sure! It's a favorite at my house also!

  5. Janaye says

    5 stars
    Love these shells

    • Andrea White says

      Same! Forever a classic goodie!

  6. Tina says

    5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic! Definitely a vegan comfort food!

    • Andrea White says

      It's a yummy one for sure!

  7. Katie says

    5 stars
    these are so fantastic! Made them for my non vegan grandparents and they loved them, even asked for the recipe! woohoo!

    • Andrea White says

      Aw that is so awesome! Toni and Michelle are going to love that!

  8. Andrea White says

    5 stars
    Love this recipe and this cookbook!

  9. nancy says

    5 stars
    thanks for this easy comfort italian recipe without the heaviness

    • Andrea White says

      It's a winner!

  10. Jess says

    5 stars
    These sound so delicious!

    • Andrea White says

      You'd love them! They're so tasty!

  11. Doug Cook says

    5 stars
    These are so delicious I could literally eat them every day. I accidentally used silky tofu once. It does not work. My filling was soupy.

    My entire family, friends and people who don’t realize these are vegan love them. I am so sneaky.

    • Andrea White says

      Nice work! So glad you and everyone enjoyed them!

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