As promised, I’m back to share my recipe for Tofu-Cashew Ricotta. And while I’m at it, I might as well make some stuffed shells. Over the weekend, my sister-in-law Geri and I were talking about tofu. We just don’t understand why it’s so alluring. Sure, it always seems to taste good in Asian food, but that’s probably because it’s stir fried. As an ingredient in stir fry recipes, it’s just a sponge for oil. There seems to be a lot of recipes that use tofu to mimic cheese, so I thought I’d try my hand at that. I’ve made tofu-spinach lasagne before, but it always seemed to fall flat. Ricotta made from dairy milk has a grainy texture and an oh-so-subtle tang to it. That’s when it hit me . . . cashews. The cashew cream cheese from a previous post had that tang. If I don’t process it into a silky smooth texture and cut it with tofu, could I get closer to the real thing? Yes! Now don’t get too excited. No matter what others might tell you, plant-based meat and cheese alternatives do not taste like the real thing. Once I learned to accept that, I was no longer disappointed when my reality did not meet my expectations. You might wonder why I even bothered trying to recreate ricotta. Well, I didn’t expect it to taste like the ricotta I grew up on. I just wanted to find a way to enjoy tofu in a flavorful way and the result was not disappointing. By adding spinach to the mix, it narrowed the taste gap between dairy and tofu ricotta. Just two more comments before I get into the recipe. The first one is about product shrinkage. When I got home from the store, I noticed that what used to be a one-pound box of jumbo shells is now 12 ounces. My plan was to create a recipe for 8 ounces of shells, but I ended up using only 6 ounces. The planets must have been aligned because my filling calculation for 8 ounces of shells filled all but two broken shells of the 6 ounces I cooked up. I ate the two broken ones un-stuffed and un-sauced. The second comment is about preparing a large quantity of foods that freeze well. When I make marinara sauce, I double or triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers. It’s just makes sense to make a mess once and get several meals from your effort. Marinara sauce can be used to top a pizza, toss with pasta, saute with onions and green beans. You can freeze the baked shells with the sauce; or freeze the uncooked shells for a later date. Well, Geralyn, this one’s for you. I hope you try it, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by.
Olive oil (optional)
1 small onion, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil if using. For a fat-free version, sauté by adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add ground fennel seeds and sauté for another minute. Add tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes until thickened.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
8 oz. firm tofu
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. miso paste or 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
Press excess water from tofu by either using a tofu press (if you have one) or wrapping in paper towels and placing a heavy can on top. Place soaked cashews, lemon juice, sugar and miso or salt in food processor. Process until smooth but slightly grainy. Add tofu and nutritional yeast and process until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Shells Stuffed with Spinach-Tofu-Cashew Ricotta
6 oz. jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted
1 recipe of Tofu-Cashew Ricotta
1 clove of garlic, pressed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the spinach. Fold spinach, garlic, salt and pepper into tofu-cashew ricotta. Using a small spoon, stuff shells with filling. Cover the bottom of a baking pan with sauce. Arrange shells on top of sauce, then spoon additional sauce over the shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until thoroughly heated. Makes about 18 to 20 stuffed shells.