Vegan Stuffed Shells

GFGluten Free
5 from 10 votes
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These Vegan Stuffed Shells are made with jumbo shells, marinara, and my homemade ricotta. All you need is 10 simple ingredients and 1 hour to bake this family favorite!

There’s few things I enjoy more than curling up with a big bowl of Vegan Stuffed Shells. Jumbo shells stuffed to the brim with savory plant-based ricotta cheese, then smothered in saucey marinara and a generous sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese. The extra time spent in the kitchen is worth every last bite!  

Table of Contents
  1. The Cozy, Cheesy Comfort Classic You Know and Love
  2. Ingredients for Vegan Stuffed Shells
  3. How to Make Vegan Stuffed Shells
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. How to Store Leftover Baked Stuffed Shells
  6. Substitutions and Variations
  7. The Best Vegan Stuffed Shells Recipe
vegan stuffed shells with red sauce and fresh basil on small white plate on marble background

The Cozy, Cheesy Comfort Classic You Know and Love

Growing up, my mom made the best stuffed shells. I developed my love for pasta and cheese with regular ol’ pasta dishes like Tomato Basil Pasta, Penne alla Vodka, and Cheesy “Beef” Pasta, but when momma made stuffed shells for the holidays or special occasions it was a real treat.

I’m proud to declare these vegan stuffed shells equally as cozy, creamy and satisfying as the dish I remember. Not to mention, this pasta dish is made with wholesome, plant-based ingredients to boot! 

Ingredients for Vegan Stuffed Shells

In order to make stuffed shells, you really only need 3 ingredients, 2 of which may be in your kitchen pantry right now!

  • Pasta Shells: The pasta used when making stuffed shells is what sets it apart from recipes like baked ziti or lasagna. Any jumbo-sized pasta shells should do here. Most shelf stable, store-bought pasta is naturally eggless and vegan-friendly.
  • Marinara sauce: I typically go the store-bought route to make things as quick and easy as possible, but your favorite store-bought or homemade marinara will do. 
  • Vegan ricotta cheese: The ricotta cheese used to stuff these shells is a slight variation of my classic vegan ricotta cheese recipe. It’s made with a few of my favorite savory add-ins such as Italian seasoning, minced garlic, and freshly cracked black pepper to boost the overall flavor.  

How to Make Vegan Stuffed Shells

a collage of six images where the process of cooking is shown: mixing fresh basil with vegan ricotta and then layering pasta sauce and stuffed shells on a casserole
  1. Par-cook the jumbo shells until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, then spread the shells out on a baking sheet to prevent sticking.
  2. Process the tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice and zest, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper in a food processor until a smooth and creamy ricotta cheese forms. Transfer to a bowl and combine with the freshly chopped basil.
  3. Spread one cup of marinara sauce in the base of a baking dish.
  4. Stuff the pasta shells with 1-2 tablespoons of vegan ricotta cheese mixture, then place shells cut side-up in the baking dish. Repeat until the remaining ricotta cheese mixture is used and all shells are stuffed. 
  5. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and optional vegan parmesan cheese, then bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. 
  6. Serve warm with additional chopped fresh basil, or as desired.

Caitlin’s Cooking Tips

Vegan stuffed shells, unfortunately, are more time-intensive compared to some of my other pasta dishes, such as dump and bake vegan mushroom stroganoff, no-boil chickpea noodle casserole, vegan macaroni and cheese, or even lasagna. Regardless, here are a few actionable tips to make your next stuffed shell attempt your best (and least messy) one yet:

  • Don’t overcook your pasta. Most stuffing shell boxes (gluten-free varieties included) will have a modified boiling time listed specifically for when used to make stuffed shells. Whatever you do, don’t fully cook your pasta! We want the noodles to be slightly undercooked because they will continue cooking during the oven bake. A good rule of thumb is to cut the cooking time in half, then add 2 minutes.
  • A piping bag makes things so much easier. The unfortunate truth is…stuffing shells with a spoon can quickly turn into a frustrating, hot mess. Use a piping bag (or cut the corner off of a plastic baggie) to precisely place the perfect amount of filling in each shell. This not only keeps your hands from getting dirty, but prevents wasted ricotta cheese, too!
  • Keep the pasta shells separated. The more opportunity the shells have to stick together, the more likely they are to break. Cook your pasta in a pot with plenty of water, so nothing sticks together. Then, rinse the noodles gently with cool water (for gluten-free), and immediately separate the shells and place them on a baking tray. Yes it’s an extra dish, but prevents excess breakage!

Serving Suggestions

In order to let the classic flavors in this stuffed shells dish shine, I like to pair it with simple sides, such as my simple and delicious Tomato Cucumber Salad or a green salad drizzled with Tahini Dressing or Nut Free Ranch. You also can’t go wrong with serving with my 3-Ingredient Pesto Star Bread to soak up that marinara goodness!

If you’re looking for more baked pasta recipes, you’ll also love these Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells and this Vegan Chorizo Pasta with Roasted Tomato Sauce! You’ll also love my One Pot Pasta Recipes.

How to Store Leftover Baked Stuffed Shells

These jumbo shells can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat multiple servings at once, heat the oven to 375F and cook leftovers in an oven safe dish tightly covered with tinfoil for 20 to 25 minutes, or until warmed through. Alternatively, place an individual serving in a microwave-safe bowl and reheat on high power in 30 second intervals until warmed through. 

I have not attempted to freeze these vegan stuffed shells, but if you have success, please let me know! 

Substitutions and Variations

  • Gluten-free option: Use gluten-free jumbo shells made from ingredients such as brown rice or corn. 
  • Oil-free option: Use an oil-free marinara sauce and skip the dairy-free parmesan cheese topping.
  • Use store-bought vegan ricotta cheese: If you are short on time, use a store-bought vegan ricotta from brands like Kite Hill or Tofutti. 
  • Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells variation: If you’d like to boost the nutritional content of your stuffed shells, add up to 6 ounces of frozen spinach or cooked spinach to the ricotta cheese mix for extra veggies! Just be sure to thaw it completely and squeeze as much of the extra liquid out as possible.
  • Make-ahead option: Prep the vegan ricotta cheese recipe up to 3 days in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to stuff. 

Recipe FAQs

Do I have to boil the pasta before baking?

Although I’ve developed several no-boil vegan pasta bake recipes to date, this recipe is unfortunately not one of them. In order to successfully make stuffed shells, the pasta absolutely must be par-boiled before baking.

Should I bake my pasta covered or uncovered?

Covered! This is going to sufficiently heat the ricotta cheese and marinara sauce resulting in a bubbly, cheesy final dish. If you’re out of tin foil, cover your baking dish with a silicone baking mat.

Should I put oil in the water when cooking pasta?

Contrary to popular belief, adding oil to the boiling water does not help prevent the pasta from sticking together. Instead, use a pot large enough to give the shells ample room to par-boil.

Enjoy! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love it if you could leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thank you for the support 😊

vegan stuffed shells with red sauce and basil in white baking dish on marble background

The Best Vegan Stuffed Shells

5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 people
These vegan stuffed shells are made from simple ingredients but don’t fall short on creamy, cheesy flavor! Perfect for a special occasion or holiday meal. 

Ingredients
 
 

For the Stuffed Shells:

  • 8 oz jumbo pasta shells gluten-free or regular
  • Vegan Ricotta below
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil chopped
  • 25 ounce jar pasta/marinara sauce of choice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup dairy-free parmesan optional

For the Vegan Ricotta:

  • 1 block organic firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup cashews soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest about ½ small lemon
  • 2 teaspoons italian seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon pink himalayan or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Par-cook the pasta: Most jumbo shell packages will have cooking instructions for stuffed shells, but if not, cut the cooking time of the pasta in half, then add two minutes. Make sure to cook the shells in a large pot with plenty of (salted) water and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Once the noodles have finished cooking, carefully drain them and rinse with cold water, then lie each shell out on a clean baking tray to prevent sticking.
  • Make the Ricotta by adding all ingredients to a food processor and processing until smooth and creamy, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and fold in the freshly chopped basil, reserving a few leaves to sprinkle on top after the shells bake.
  • Stuff the Shells: Add 1 cup of marinara sauce to the base of a 9 x 13" pan and spread it around evenly with a spatula. Use a spoon, cookie dough scoop, or piping bag to fill each shell, gently close it, then place it cut side-up in the pan. The amount of ricotta needed will vary on the size of the shell; I used gluten-free shells and used around 2 tablespoons for each shell.
  • Cover the shells with the remaining marinara and parmesan cheese, if using, then bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Top with additional fresh basil, then serve warm.

Recipe Notes

  • This recipe doesn’t call for many ingredients, so purchase the highest quality ones that you can.
  • If you’d like to you can also add up to 6 ounces of frozen spinach to the mix for extra veggies! Just be sure to thaw it completely and squeeze as much of the extra liquid out as possible

Nutrition

Calories: 229kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 11gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 850mgPotassium: 520mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 484IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 68mgIron: 4mg
Keyword: dairy free stuffed shells, egg free stuffed shells, gluten free stuffed shells, healthy stuffed shells, vegan stuffed shells, vegan stuffed shells oil free
Course: Main
Method: Oven
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

Learn More

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Comments

  1. If I were to add in a vegan bechamel to this, do you think I need to add to the baking time? Making this without it now. Can’t wait

    1. I’d first check on it at the suggested baking time and increase if you think the bechamel could go longer, though I’d also keep in mind that you don’t want the pasta to overcook. If you want the bechamel to brown slightly, you can also try removing the foil at the end and baking for an additional 5 minutes.

  2. 5 stars
    This was a hit! I couldn’t find pasta shells so I ended up buying jumbo rigatoni and made the recipe as a pasta bake instead. I also added spinach and topped with vegan cheese. The ricotta recipe was stellar!

  3. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner and it was so good! Caitlin’s recipes never disappoint so I was delighted to find a stuffed shell recipe. It was the perfect dinner and the ricotta will definitely be making an appearance in other meals.

    Side note: piping the shells was an A+ tip and there was no mess.

  4. I can’t wait to make it! First of all it looks delicious, secondly I read the comments and everyone is so enthusiastic about it! Even non vegans liked it, just what I’m looking for. Thanks for the recipe, and the beautiful pictures. I’ll try it soon!

  5. I made this for my younger cousins (non-vegan) along with some vegan garlic bread and salad and they LOVED it. I’m happy to have this in my recipe arsenal, it was absolutely delicious.

  6. So delicious! My husband loved it. Very creamy and the basil was a great touch.

    Any chance you have the nutritional values? Wasn’t sure if I missed it or if you had it.

    Thanks!

    1. So glad you both enjoyed it! Out of personal philosophy we don’t calculate calories/nutritional info but you can use something like Cronometer to figure that out for any meal!

  7. This looks amazing! What pan are you using for baking in the oven ? Is it ceramic?
    Can’t wait to try!

  8. 5 stars
    This meal was DIVINE! Caitlin thank you for putting so much time into each recipe, the quality shows! I made it for Valentine’s Day and my boyfriend loved it:)

  9. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! We added some mushrooms in the marinara sauce before putting it in the baking dish and my non-vegan family loved it. Thanks Caitlin for another amazing recipe <3

  10. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for a holiday potluck. Everyone loved it, even my non-veggie friends! I will definitely be making these stuffed shells again.

  11. 5 stars
    Delicious! I added mushrooms to the sauce and ricotta mixture, and added spinach to the ricotta as well. Turned out amazing!! Thank you Caitlin ❤️

  12. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe! The vegan ricotta is so good – had to resist eating it with a spoon. Took it along with a SAD version to a holiday pot luck and the vegan version was gone first. I made my own marinara sauce and I used a hemp seed/nutritional yeast vegan parmesan recipe for the topping. Yummy! Thank you Caitlin. Your recipes never disappoint!