The best vegan stuffed shells from scratch, filled with the creamiest cashew ricotta cheese and baked in a thick homemade marinara sauce. Easy and satisfying, this recipe checks all the boxes with the entire family.
Vegan Stuffed Shells
An absolutely divine pasta dinner, jumbo sea shells pasta stuffed with creamy homemade cashew ricotta and baked in a homemade marinara sauce. Great as a comforting meatless weeknight meal but also perfect as a holiday entree to grace your Thanksgiving and Christmas table in lieu of a lasagna.
Saucy, creamy pasta perfection!
- The Pasta Shells – they come in three different sizes, so you need to make sure and use the jumbo ones or CONCHIGLIONI which are the perfect ones for stuffing and baking. The smallest ones are called “conchigliette” and are usually used in soups; the medium size are “conchiglie” and are traditionally used in pasta salad or tossed with a thick sauce.
- Cashew Ricotta – our lusciously creamy ricotta from scratch whipped up in your Vitamix blender, no soaking required. Alternatively you could use a store bought version if desired but homemade is so much better. If you don’t have an extra powerful blender however, make sure to soak your cashews in hot water for 20 minutes before blending.
- Tomato Sauce – I used our thick homemade marinara made from San Marzano tomatoes and every last drop is wiped clean with a piece of crusty bread. Feel free to use your favorite store bough sauce if desired but honestly there’s nothing out there that comes close to the magic of homemade sauce from scratch.
- Cashew Cream – Totally optional but it’s really nice as a garnish to drizzle over the shells before serving sprinkled with a bunch of fresh basil.
- Add Ins – To stay true to the classics you can mix in about 1 cup of sauteed spinach or kale with your ricotta. If using frozen spinach make sure to thaw it out first and squeeze as much liquid as possible. I like to keep it simple and insist the spinach is better served on the side as a dish of creamed spinach or simply sauteed with garlic in a drizzle of olive oil.
- Filling Variations – Pan seared Beyond Meat Italian sausage would make a great hearty filling for the shells. You might like to experiment with some sauteed mushrooms and onions in white wine, or roasted butternut squash with fried crispy sage. Our homemade Italian sausage walnut meat I used in this Vegan Pasta Bake makes an absolutely fabulous filling. If deciding to go this route definitely finish with a drizzle of cashew cream to balance out the dish.
- Make Ahead – You can prepare the shells in advance up to the baking point, cover and refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to 3 months. Bake following the recipe directions; if baking frozen make sure to add about 10 minutes to the total cooking time.
- Serving Suggestions – This is truly a filling meal but it’s even better with a side of crispy roasted broccoli, cauliflower wings or focaccia bread. Jazz it up with a drizzle of basil pesto, a sprinkling of this walnut parmesan cheese or enjoy with a side of our vegan Caesar salad.
how to make vegan stuffed shells
Vegan Stuffed Shells
- Soak the cashews in hot water for 20 minutes then drain. (If you have a powerful blender like a Vitamix you can skip the soaking)2 cups raw cashew pieces
- Into a powerful blender add the cashew pieces together with 3/4 cups of water, juice from 1 lemon, grated garlic, onion powder and sea salt. Process until smooth and creamy. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed.2 cups raw cashew pieces, 3/4 cups water, 1 lemon, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with a large pinch of coarse salt then cook the pasta according to the directions on the package until al dente in texture.18 jumbo pasta shells
- Prepare a bowl of ice cold water. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the cooked pasta shells to the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with a light drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Preheat your oven to 350”F.
- Add half of the tomato sauce to the bottom of a 10 X13 inch baking dish. Spread it evenly.4.5 cups tomato sauce
- Using a regular teaspoon fill each pasta shell with the cashew ricotta. Place in the dish with the sauce. You can line them up straight or at an angle if desired. Repeat the process until all the shells are filled. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes at this point if desired.18 jumbo pasta shells, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- Spoon the remaining of the sauce over the top of the shells and spread as evenly as you can. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- Serve sprinkled with the fresh basil and optionally a drizzle of cashew cream.10 basil leaves
- Cashew Cream - To make your own cashew cream process 1 cup of raw cashew pieces + 3/4 cups of water in the Vitamix blender until thick and creamy. Alternatively you can use a store bought brand or omit altogether as the shells are already stuffed with the creamiest filling).
- Pasta Shells - Make sure to boil a few extra shells as insurance, just in case any of them might break in the process. Keep a close eye on them during boiling and stir often to prevent sticking.