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!
Origins of Pasta
Fresh pasta has been enthusiastically enjoyed in Italy for thousands of years. But who actually invented it? The answer is debated! You can learn more about the history of pasta here. The specific shell-shaped pasta used in this recipe is called conchiglioni and is believed to have originated in Italy.
How to Make Dairy-Free Stuffed Shells
So the filling for these shells is simple:
Dairy-free mozzarella shreds (I tried Go Veggie)
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.
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.
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.
Vegan Stuffed Shells with Roasted Eggplant
- 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
- 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.
*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.