Vegan Stuffed Shells with Roasted Eggplant

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Cast-iron skillet filled with dairy-free stuffed shells

I really love pasta; pasta of all kinds. Fettuccine happens to be my favorite but stuffed shells take a close second. As of late, however, dairy has been bothering my system more than usual so I’m currently experimenting with new recipes that keep cheese and other dairy products at bay. Easier said than done.

These shells were my first attempt and they came out a supreme success. I actually just had the leftovers for lunch and grinned the whole time I shoveled them in. I couldn’t believe how rich and satisfying they were with no cheese. Bonus: I couldn’t even detect tofu. Win!

Making dairy-free pasta shell filling in a food processor

So the filling for these shells is simple:

Tofu
Dairy-free mozzarella shreds (I tried Go Veggie)
Roasted Eggplant
Pesto

That’s it! All that’s left is the shells and red sauce, making this an 8-ingredient meal that only takes 1 hour from start to finish.

Skillet of Tofu and Eggplant Stuffed ShellsPan of Tofu Eggplant Stuffed Pasta Shells

If you’ve never tried eggplant in Italian dishes, you’ve  been missing out. The roasted eggplant pieces in the filling kind of make these shells. Doused in tomato sauce it’s like heaven on a fork.

Skillet of Healthy Stuffed Shells made with tofu and eggplantTop down shot of a pan of vegan pasta stuffed shells

John even tried these and said he probably wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between these and normal stuffed shells had I not told him. That’s a HUGE win in my book because he’s not a huge fan of tofu (nor am I).

Thankfully, these shells passed the test and will definitely be taking the place of cheesy versions from here on out. My stomach couldn’t be more thrilled either.

Plate of our simple dairy-free stuffed shells recipePlate and skillet of Tofu Eggplant Stuffed Shells with fresh basilSkillet of Vegan Stuffed Shells with Eggplant

Vegan Stuffed Shells with Roasted Eggplant

Simple stuffed shells with a dairy-free tofu-eggplant-pesto filling. 8 ingredients, vegan, and so delicious.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Spoon in a skillet of Dairy-Free Stuffed Shells topped with fresh basil
4.86 from 14 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? Best when fresh

Ingredients

  • 15 jumbo shells (gluten-free for GF eaters)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 block firm tofu (slightly patted dry // 3/4 block yields ~1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegan basil pesto (shouldn’t contain cheese)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free mozzarella cheese shreds (such as Go Veggie or Daiya)*
  • 1/2 large eggplant (cut into 1/4 inch rounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups favorite marinara sauce

Instructions

  • FOR THE EGGPLANT: Sprinkle eggplant rounds with sea salt and place in a colander over the sink to let drain. After 10 minutes rinse lightly and then pat dry. Slice into quarters, place on a cookie sheet and toss in olive oil and sea salt. Broil for 5-10 minutes or until slightly browned and softened, tossing once or twice to ensure even roasting. Set aside.
  • Next, bring a pot of water to a boil and add shells and a pinch of sea salt. Stir once and cook according to package instructions. Also, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).
  • While the shells are cooking, add tofu to a food processor and pulse a couple times to break it up. Then add pesto, a healthy pinch of sea salt, dairy-free mozzarella shreds and mix until just combined. Taste a little and see if you need more salt or pesto. Then stir in roasted eggplant.
  • Once the shells are done, drain and let cool slightly. Pour 1/2 cup red sauce in the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron or 8×8 pan (amounts as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size), then stuff shells with generous spoonfuls of filling.
  • Arrange shells split side up in the pan and then top with remaining tomato sauce – they should be covered but not drowning. Bake for 35 minutes or until warm and bubbly. Serve immediately. These go great with Caesar salad, steamed broccoli and/or garlic bread.

Notes

*If you’re not a fan of dairy-free “cheese,” simply leave it out and sub it with more eggplant or tofu.
*If not vegan, you can add an egg for extra binding while breaking down the tofu in food processor. This is not necessary though.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 g Calories: 386 Carbohydrates: 58 g Protein: 13 g Fat: 10 g Saturated Fat: 1.5 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 505 mg Fiber: 6 g Sugar: 11 g

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  1. jenny says

    I made this for my parents (omnivores) and they LOVED it (as did I). My parents asked me to make it a second time and I forgot about adding the vegan cheese and still it was a hit! My sister (vegetarian) was skeptical of the dish as it has pesto (she’s super sensitive to garlic) but I used Trader Joe’s vegan kale cashew pesto and she loved the dish as well. My parents asked me to make it for Christmas Eve dinner! Thank you for this great recipe!

  2. Maria says

    I’ve made this for the first time two years ago and have probably made it a hundred times since. It’s just so good!
    I will sometimes use tofu that I let sit in a marinade of olive oil, salt, mediterranean herbs and garlic for a few days (to make it kinda taste like herbed feta) and just omit the pesto fully (tho I do add in some of the marinade instead).
    For non-vegans I have also made this recipe with feta cheese instead of tofu and had really good results with that as well.
    Because it is so easy to adjust to what we have at home, this recipe has become a staple in our home during eggplant season.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yay! We’re so glad you enjoy it, Maria! Thanks so much for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications!

  3. Helen says

    Made this using the “5-Ingredient Vegan Almond Ricotta” recipe (replacing the almonds with cashews because it was all I had) and it was delicious. Quite time consuming but I did opt for making my own marinara too, it was all worth it regardless and I’m looking forward to the leftovers I have tomorrow.

  4. Audrey says

    I love many of your recipes but these exceeded my expectations! I added a bit of nut parm to the filling. I was surprised that it didn’t taste like tofu. Will definitely make again!

  5. Julie says

    Awesome recipe Dana, just one thing about Go Veggie cheese. Their lactose free products contain casein, a by product from the dairy industry, so it is not a vegan product. But their vegan products do not…

  6. Bailey says

    Just made these for the first time tonight and they turned out great!! My meat- eating parents were shocked when I told them it was made with tofu lol

  7. April says

    Hi Dana! Can I make this and the eggplant rollups with the macadamia ricotta from your 8 ingredient vegan lasagna recipe?

  8. Natalie Fladager says

    Hi! Do you roast the eggplant on the top rack and on high or low broil? Is it better to roast them on regular heat for longer?

  9. Michelle says

    These were amazing! I will be making these again for certain. The filling was creamy and the eggplant gave it a wonderful texture and added delicious flavor. Also, it was so easy to make!

  10. YogiTwins says

    To date this dish has been the biggest hit with the family. I felt guilty after eating because it tasted like real cheese filling. It was relieving to know it’s actually good for me! This will definitely be in my rotation of meals. Thank you for all of the great recipes!! I’ve been cooking from your recipes for over a month now without disappointment.

  11. Cindy Boxer says

    Wow!!! This was another home run, nay, grand slam!! I had this lovely very first little eggplant in my garden and the timing of getting this recipe was perfect. Super duper easy. Made a vegan pesto with almonds cuz that’s what I had. And I didn’t use the cheez shreds. It was delicious, satisfying in that homey pasta way, but felt so light. I’m so grateful for you and these wonderful recipes. ????????

  12. Margi says

    I have made this 3 times and it’s delicious! I make my vegan cheese with nutritional yeast.. and sometimes I top it with some sprinkled parmesan since I do eat dairy. I use ready made arrabbiata sauce on top!

  13. Xenia says

    I will definitely be trying this tonight. I make a tofu ricotta you inspired alllll the time and use it for everything. Throwing in some eggplant is a good way to mix things up :)
    ALSO A warning to all the vegans though, keep an eye out for Go Veggie ingredients. They tout as “dairy free”, but they are not vegan. Most of their products contain casein.

  14. debbie says

    this sounds incredible! I can’t wait to try! definitely a recipe that will be fun to experiment with :)

  15. Hannah says

    It was far too tofu-y in flavor. I made one batch following the recipe to a T b/c I always love this site’s recipes. I threw out most of it and this is what I did differently. What I did makes it taste much like manicotti:
    Same amount of noodles and sauce
    1/4 block tofu (pressed, I prefer pressed, frozen, then thawed)
    1 C. spinach
    mozzarella cheese:
    (1/4 C. soaked cashews, 1/2 C. hot water, 1 1/2 t. olive oil, 1 T and 1/2 t. corn starch, 1 t. minced garlic, 1/2 t. lemon juice, 1/2 t. sea salt)
    Parmesan cheese:
    (1/4 C. raw cashews, 1.5 T. nutritional yeast, 1/4 t. Italian seasoning, 1/8 t. sea salt)
    1. Bring Pot of water to a boil and add noodles. While noodles cook according to package instructions, blend mozzarella ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into a small pot and cook on medium heat until it thickens. Stir frequently. Place thickened cheese in fridge and let cool at least 15 min. Pre-heat oven to 375.
    2. While mozzarella cools, process parmesan ingredients in food processor until it resembles fine crumbs.
    3. Drain cooked noodles and let cool.
    4. Cover the bottom of an 8×8 baking pan with a layer of pasta sauce.
    5. Add tofu, spinach, and mozzarella to the processor with the parmesan. Process until well-combined. Processing for a longer period of time will make the tofu flavor less noticeable, but be careful to not let it get soupy.
    The rest of the instructions were followed according to the last steps of the recipe. If you follow what I tried, I hope you like it! I wouldn’t have tried it if I didn’t find this recipe. Thank you for the idea. :)

  16. Emilly says

    I can’t do tofu. Any other options? I want to make this but can’t do soy. Any suggestions would be great.

  17. Andrea says

    I made these last night for my husband and a friend! They were awesome! I didn’t have pesto so I just used tons of garlic and fresh basil. I also used baby bella mushrooms instead of eggplant. Thank you for the recipe :)

  18. Katie @ Produce on Parade says

    Dana, your photos are stunning as usual (you’re awesome!) and this dish looks freaking fantastic. Dang girl. Gimme some of that! :)

  19. Kathryn says

    Ooh I’m looking for tasty vegan pasta dishes at the moment and this has just jumped to the top! Love the roasted eggplant in there, my absolute fave.

  20. Laura C says

    This recipe makes me so happy. I love cheesy pasta dishes but have had to eliminate most all dairy. I am really excited to be able to try this. I have a question though – do you have a cheese free pesto recipe you use? I know there isn’t a ton of Parmesan in pesto but still, regular pesto isn’t vegan. Thanks!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yes! It’s just one I got from my grocery that’s cheese-free. Otherwise you can just omit it and add more pine nuts when making it yourself. Hope that helps, Laura!

  21. Alex Caspero MA,RD (@delishknowledge) says

    Roasted eggplant on anything sounds amazing, let alone whirled and stuffed into shells! Yum!

  22. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe says

    These sound delicious and your photos are gorgeous too. That vibrant red sauce really pops! I’m going to give these a try. Dairy sits just fine with me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to go without from time to time.

  23. Janae @ Bring-Joy says

    Dairy bothers me too! (Which is part of the reason I gave it up 7 years ago)

    I actually things taste better without cheese. Cheese has such a strong, overpowering flavor that once you get it out of the way you can actually taste the stuff underneath. But that’s just my opinion.

    (I love the eggplant theme going on lately.)

  24. Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) says

    My favorite stuffed shells ever are jenna’s dairy free stuffed shells w/ tofu & spinach. I think it’s way better than ricotta. I’d totally try these, minus the fake cheese. Do you think they’d be fine without the “cheese”?

  25. Sarah / The Sugar Hit says

    0what a great recipe – all the cosy Italian warmth of baked pasta, without the huge dairy bomb of the original.