Vegan Stuffed Shells

GFGluten Free
5 from 13 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 😊

The Best Vegan Stuffed Shells

5 from 13 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 ounces jumbo pasta shells gluten-free or regular
  • Vegan Ricotta below
  • 6 ounces frozen spinach thawed and drained; optional
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil chopped
  • 25 ounce jar pasta/marinara sauce of choice
  • 1/2-1 cup dairy-free parmesan optional

For the Vegan Ricotta:

Instructions

  • 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.

Recipe Notes

  • 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.

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.

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Comments

  1. How much do you mean by one block of tofu as it differs from country to country? How many grams of tofu would you say is required?

  2. 5 stars
    I was taking a chance on making this recipe for the 1st time on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is doubly special for us. We always eat Italian food on NYE because 36 years ago my then boyfriend/now husband was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and he flew me over to Naples while the ship was in port there over the Christmas holidays. He proposed to me at midnight on New Year’s Eve in a romantic restaurant in Rome. This year was our 1st New Year’s Eve cooking at home after going to a plant-based diet and I decided to make these stuffed shells. They were an absolute winner! The ricotta was delicious! This recipe will now be another NYE tradition. It’s good enough for company, too! Thank you, Caitlin!

      1. 5 stars
        These turned out great! Definitely adding these into the comfort food rotation, thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    Simply delicious! I made these today and I was blown away by how realistic the “ricotta” was. I will use this recipe for other pasta bakes in the future. I was wondering how long leftovers will keep in the fridge?

    1. Thanks for the review Linda! Leftover should keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. I have also frozen them for up to ~2 months and reheated and they were great as well!

      1. Hi! I saw that you said you had frozen the dish before. Would you fully make the dish before freezing and then just that and bake?

      2. Yes, you can freeze the dish before baking. Prepare the stuffed shells as instructed, then cover the baking dish with a layer of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Label the dish with the date and type of meal. When ready to enjoy, thaw the dish in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed. It’s a convenient way to have a delicious meal without the hassle of preparation on the day you plan to serve it. Enjoy your stuffed shells!

    1. Hi Linda! Yes, you can definitely prepare The Best Vegan Stuffed Shells a day ahead of Thanksgiving and bake them the following day. Here’s a suggested plan:

      Day Before Thanksgiving:

      Prepare the Vegan Ricotta: Make the vegan ricotta as per the recipe instructions and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
      Par-cook the Pasta Shells: Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the package instructions for stuffed shells but reduce the cooking time by half, then add two minutes. Drain and rinse the shells with cold water. Lay them out on a clean baking tray to prevent sticking.

      Thanksgiving Day:

      Stuff the Shells: Fill each par-cooked shell with the prepared vegan ricotta and basil mixture. Place them in a baking dish with marinara sauce.
      Preheat the Oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
      Bake: Cover the shells with marinara sauce (and dairy-free parmesan if using), then bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

      By following this plan, you can save time on Thanksgiving Day by having most of the prep work done in advance. Just make sure to cover the shells tightly with foil or a lid before refrigerating them. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for a bit before placing them in the preheated oven.