One of the things I was most sad about leaving behind by becoming a vegan were my stuffed shells. I regularly made this awesome recipe from the cookbook Cook Yourself Thin and I was honestly bummed about not being able to make it, or any other ricotta filled dish again. Then, like a little gift from vegan heaven, came a recipe from Skinny Bitch In the Kitch for Tofu Ricotta. I don't know if I was as much surprised to find a recipe for vegan ricotta as much as I was surprised at how similar it really did taste to the real thing. Joe and I have learned you can pretty much make anything out of tofu and brown rice.
I served this recipe to my family last weekend, all of whom are non-vegans, and they all loved it. It's a great one to share with people, and after they are pooing themselves over it, reveal that it has.. gasp! TOFU!
So this is kind of a long recipe, but it can be broken up into its parts to be used for other things. The sauce and basic recipe is from Cook Yourself Thin, which is an awesome book for non-veganers, and the ricotta comes from Skinny Bitch.
1 (28 oz) can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
1 (14 oz) can peeled plum tomatoes in juice
2 tsp. olive oil
3/4 c. roughly chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 tsp. dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
Pour the tomatoes in a bowl and mash with your hands or pulse in a food processor to chop. I personally just cook all the sauce and use my immersion blender at the end. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over med-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to very low and cook until vegetables are softened (about 5 minutes). Add the tomatoes with juice, basil, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer gently about 20-25 minutes, until thickened. Season with 1/8 tsp. pepper, but season to taste. I often add some oregano too. Ta-da! Homemade pasta sauce!
While your sauce is simmering away, cook your jumbo pasta shells - 1 box (should be like 12 oz) until they are al dente or about 7 minutes. Drain in a colander, and immediately transfer to an oiled (or cooking sprayed) baking sheet. Spread them out in a single layer so they don't get all stuck to each other later.
14-16 oz. extra firm tofu (I package of tofu)
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 T. evoo
1 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. sea salt
Super easy! Throw all the ingredients into a food processor (or blender would work too I'm sure). When you add the tofu, crumble it up into pieces. Pulse the ingredients until everything is well incorporated, and you reach a good ricotta-like consistency.
Put your ricotta into a bowl, and add whatever you'd like to stuff your shells with. I like to use about a cup of vegan mozzarella cheese, and about a quarter cup for vegan parmesan cheese. I also saute up a zucchini cut into half moon slices, and a shallot chopped thin (just a few minutes in a pan with oil until the zucchini just had a bit of crunch left). You can use whatever you like. In the past, I have done carrots and daikon, spinach, etc.
Time to assemble! Pour a nice layer of your sauce into the bottom of a 13x9 pan, and one by one, fill up each shell with about a tablespoon or so of filling. Place each shell face down into the pan, and keep going until you're done. I always seem to have about 4 or 5 shells left that don't fit into the pan, so I make another little container and stick it in the freezer. Top the shells with your remaining sauce, and some more (vegan) cheese*.
*a note on vegan cheese.. I only know of one brand, Follow Your Heart, that does not include casein in their cheese. It's tasty, but I think it only comes in a block, so you'd have to grate it. Casein is an additive found in dairy that, basically, makes you feel good. The full name is casein morphin. like morphine. ya dig? So, it's better to get a cheese substitute without it, but alas. vegan cheese is still better than regular 'ol cheese, so get what you can.
Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil. Enjoy!