Vegetarian Stuffed Shells

Vegetarian stuffed shells

Unlike my beloved Sally, I do not LOVE to cook, although every once in a while I do enjoy making a fun and new dish for us to try out.  For my first official post (most of my blog duties are editing, eating, and dishwashing), I thought I would go for something that is a reinterpretation of an old favorite – stuffed shells!

As my family will remember and quickly tell you, I have a long and assorted history with stuffed shells.  Going back to when I was about 15 years old and full of youthful idealism, I endeavored to cook up a gourmet meal for my parents and sister.  The centerpiece would be a delicious serving of – you guessed it – stuffed shells!  I found a pretty simple and straightforward recipe, and went to work.  Everything was going well, until my mom walked in and asked how things were going.  I was pulling out the shells from the oven, and trying to figure out why they were still so hard.

Ingredients for stuffed shells

My mom asks innocently enough, “Did you cook them long enough before you put them in the oven?”

And I responded, with an equal level of innocence, “What do you mean, cook them before I put them in the oven?”

The recipe had been a little too simple for my beginner skills and had neglected to emphasize this step – and I had just filled the shells directly out of the box.  Whoops…No wonder it was so hard to get any filling into them!

So anyway, after a good laugh, my mom helped me clean out and cook the shells in boiling water, and I was able to salvage the meal pretty well.  But I have never lived down that story, despite having prepared many stuffed shells successfully since then.

Garlic, onions, basil, and pine nuts

I thought it would be fun to add another chapter in my shells saga by trying out a new “healthy” version of the recipe that I found online at – my original ricotta-filled shells would probably not fare too well on our ratings. This one replaces the cheese with silken tofu, and adds several types of vegetables to the filling.  Not being a fan of either mushrooms or olives, I took those out, and the recipe below features a tasty blend of spinach, basil, garlic, and onions.  I think it may be a nice alternative to the kitchen-sink approach of the original version –please try it out for yourself and see what you think…!

Stuffing the shells

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells with Spinach, Basil, and Onions

Recipe adapted from Better

12 oz box large pasta shells

10 oz package frozen spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

12 oz box extra firm Silken Tofu

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8  teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

2 ½ cups Safeway O Brand Organic spaghetti sauce (marinara version)

4 tablespoons pine nuts

Cook pasta shells according to the package directions.  While the pasta cooks, defrost spinach in the microwave. Microwave on high for 5 minutes in a microwave-safe dish with a cover (I used the bottom of a plate).  Remove the lid and allow the spinach to cool.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add onions and cook on medium for 2 minutes. Once the onions are slightly brown add in the garlic.  Cook onions and garlic over low heat for 10 minutes.

Drain water from tofu and place in a medium-size bowl.  Sprinkle lemon juice over tofu and crumble tofu into small pieces.  The resulting mixture should resemble ricotta cheese.  While tofu marinates in juice, squeeze excess water out of cooled the spinach.

Stir tofu, spinach, basil, salt and pepper into the cooked onion and garlic mixture.  Cook over low heat for another 10 minutes.

While the tofu and spinach mixture cooks, pour spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Once the tofu and spinach mixture has finished cooking and has cooled slightly, gently spoon the mixture into the shells.  Arrange the shells in rows on top of the spaghetti sauce. Bake the shells at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove shells from the oven, sprinkle them with pine nuts and broil in the oven for 5 minutes.

Number of Servings: 6-8

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells

Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:

Recipe Report Card Notes About Recipe Ratings

Tasty Rating


Four Chefs (Delicious!)

The basil, garlic, and onion combined to create a very delicious flavor. Our broiler is a little strong, and made the shells a little on the crispy side, but they were still good. We sprinkled some cheese on it for a little extra zest, but it was still quite good on its own.

Easy Rating


Two Easy Chairs (A Long March…)

There are quite a few steps in this process and you have to manage your time pretty well as you shuffle between tasks. But there aren’t that many ingredients, and they were all relatively easy to find.

Healthy Rating


Four Apples (Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise)

The tofu replacing the ricotta cheese is huge, and gives this favorite a huge boost in the health department. The spinach will also make you strong like Popeye… :)

Green Rating


Four Leaves (Mother Earth Approved)

We couldn’t find any organic shells, but all of the vegetables were available from Safeway as organic options. They also have several organic tofu varieties, but none that were silken, unfortunately. So its greener than most recipes, but not as green as you can get.
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2 comments to Vegetarian Stuffed Shells

  • OMG these are beautiful. You have been blogging since 2009, that is amazing. Does Graham no longer blog? I love the pine nuts in there also. Wonderful photos.

  • sally

    Thanks Suzi! I think this was Graham’s only official post. He works behind the scenes these days, as my copy editor, dish washer, and official taster. :)

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