Fix This: Shells Stuffed with Tofu-Cashew Ricotta, Spinach & Shitakes
“There are no mistakes in the kitchen; only new recipes to be discovered.” These may not be words to live by, but they sure are words to cook by. I heard this saying several years ago and I don’t recall who said them. I’ve always kept them in the back of my mind and they’ve been a motivating message for me as I explore the world of plant-based cooking. Well I had to rely on these words today as I experimented with a tofu-based ricotta cheese recipe that I found in a vegan cookbook. As an Italian from Brooklyn I had access to some of the best cheese stores in the country so it’s hard to sell me on non-dairy cheese. I wanted to use the ricotta straight up on toast. Well, it was pretty awful. What was I going to do with a pound of tofu “something”? “Fix this, Rose” echoed in my head. Instead of tossing what I already had I relied on my tried and true Tofu-Cashew Ricotta recipe to save the day. Wishfully, I added some raw cashews (didn’t even soak them) to the food processor, but sadly the cheese was still not tasty enough to eat as is. I decided to save it to make Stuffed Shells with Spinach–Tofu-Cashew Ricotta and placed it in the fridge overnight.
Day Two: As luck would have it, I only had a half bag of frozen spinach. (Really, I saved a half bag of spinach. Who does that?) Then I remembered a bag of shitake mushrooms hiding at the back of the fridge and decided to add them to the filling. I sauteed them with garlic and added the thawed and squeezed spinach, minced it in a food processor until coarse and folded it into the ricotta. (My tip for squeezing the liquid from spinach is to defrost it in the bag, then poke holes in the bag and squeeze. A tip for filling the shells is to use a pastry bag fitted with a large decorating tip.) My secret ingredient for the filling was to season it with truffle salt (totally not necessary, but definitely adds another layer of flavor.) A generous amount of marinara poured under and over the shells will keep them from drying out. Oh, boy, these are so creamy and delicious there’s no mistaking that this recipe will become one of my favorite plant-based baked pasta dishes. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.
Shells Stuffed with Tofu Ricotta, Spinach & Shitake Mushrooms
- 6 oz. jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
- 8 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water squeezed out
- 8 oz. shitake mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 cups of Tofu-Cashew Ricotta (below) (make ahead of time)
- 1 clove of garlic, pressed
- ½ teaspoon truffle salt (or regular salt)
- Black pepper to taste
- Marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Saute mushrooms in non-stick skillet until brown and liquid has evaporated. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook to dry out any extra liquid. Let cool.
In bowl of food processor, process spinach/mushroom mixture until coarse. Remove and place in large bowl with ricotta, truffle salt and pepper. Stir well. Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, 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. You can remove the foil toward the end of baking to brown the top a bit.
Makes about 18 to 20 stuffed shells.
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
- 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon lactic acid powder (or and extra teaspoons cider vinegar)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt (if using for a filling that usually calls for eggs, you can use black salt instead of table salt)
- 8 oz. firm tofu
- 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
Place soaked cashews, cider vinegar lemon juice, sugar and salt in food processor. Process until smooth but slightly grainy. Add tofu and nutritional yeast and process until incorporated with cashews. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: If you don’t want to bake the stuffed shells, simply place them on a baking sheet and freeze overnight then place in a zip-lock bag for future use.