Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Spread one cup of marinara sauce in the base of a baking dish.
- 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.
- Cover with remaining marinara sauce and optional vegan parmesan cheese, then bake for about 30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 😊
The Best Vegan Stuffed Shells
For the Stuffed Shells:
For the Vegan Ricotta:
- Prep: Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13" baking dish and set aside. Set a baking sheet aside as well.
- Par-cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and par-cook the jumbo shells according to the stuffed shell cooking instructions on the package. (If your shells don’t have this, cut the cooking time of the pasta in half, then add two minutes). Once the noodles have finished cooking, carefully drain them and rinse with cold water, then transfer them to the baking sheet to prevent sticking.
- Make the Ricotta: Add the tofu, cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice and zest, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper to a food processor with an S-blade. Process until smooth and creamy, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl and fold in the spinach and freshly chopped basil.
- Stuff the Shells: Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce across the base of the baking dish. 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 was able to fit around 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in each shell. Repeat with the remaining shells.
- Bake: Cover the shells with the remaining marinara and cheese, if using. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Top with additional fresh basil if desired, then serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Jumbo Shells: If you have extra shells, I’d recommend cooking 10 ounces instead of 8; a few shells inevitably crack, and this way you’ll have a few extras just in case!
- Spinach: I like to use frozen spinach as it is pre-cooked and saves a step in the assembly process. Make sure to thoroughly squeeze any excess liquid out of the spinach to prevent the filling from getting runny; it should be near-dry.
- Make Ahead: You can make the vegan ricotta filling up to 3 days in advance – just store in the fridge in the meantime! I’d recommend folding in the spinach and basil the day-of cooking the shells.