Vegan Stuffed Shells with Homemade Spinach-Tofu Ricotta


I had a craving, and decided to revisit this old recipe for vegan stuffed shells. It’s a classic entree that still pleases many. And although it involves a few steps, it’s actually quite easy to make. I would even recommend it for novice dairy-free cooks.

Vegan Stuffed Shells Recipe with Homemade Spinach-Tofu Ricotta - homemade, healthy, plant-based, nut-free, and optionally gluten-free!

The vegan pasta is stuffed with a tofu “ricotta,” which helps make this a higher protein, plant-based meal. If you want to “beef up” the recipe even more, you can saute mushrooms, ground meat, or vegan ground round and add them to the sauce before layering it on. Or, for more veggie-love, you can serve these vegan stuffed shells with a side salad, asparagus, or broccoli.

It has been nearly a dozen years since I originally made and posted this recipe here on Go Dairy Free, so I’ve updated the recipe quite a bit. It’s now got clearer instructions and our simple special diet format. I honestly don’t recall where the idea for this recipe originally came from, but I do recall enjoying it very much!

Reader Raves

Thanks to Julie for sharing the following helpful feedback on this recipe via Facebook:

I found adding 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice, and a half a block of smoked tofu (put through the blender) really kicked the flavour up a tick. I also added more nutritional yeast and a bit more than a pinch of nutmeg. I had a hard time keeping a spoon out of the mix I made for tonight’s supper! I also think adding crushed pistachios to the ricotta would be amazing. (Update: Pistachios ended up making a better garnish than a filling.) … Even my dairy eating husband and daughter enjoyed it, and not just in a good “for dairy free” way.

Vegan Stuffed Shells Recipe with Homemade Spinach-Tofu Ricotta - homemade, healthy, plant-based, nut-free, and optionally gluten-free!Photo by psnoonan

Special Diet Notes: Vegan Stuffed Shells

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.

5.0 from 5 reviews
Vegan Stuffed Shells with Dairy-Free Ricotta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The dairy-free ricotta mixture, steps 1 through 4, can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • 1 (12- to 14-ounce) package extra-firm or firm tofu (not silken), drained
  • 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt + additional, to taste
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (24- to 28-ounce) jar dairy-free marinara
  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons basil
  • Black pepper, to taste
  1. Place ¾ of the tofu in your food processor or blender. Add the nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and nutmeg and process until smooth.
  2. Remove the tofu mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining tofu and mash until it resembles ricotta.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute.
  4. Squeeze excess liquid from the spinach. Add the spinach, cooked onions and garlic, oregano, and basil to the "ricotta" mixture and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  6. Cook the shells according to the package directions. Drain and rinse them under cold water.
  7. Pour enough marinara in a 9x9-inch or 9x13-inch baking dish to just cover the bottom. Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture, and place them in the baking dish. Pour the remaining marinara over the shells.
  8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Key Pantry Supplies: Vegan Stuffed Shells

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Hi! Just curious if you have ever froze the leftovers? I plan to use gf noodles. Always a little worried how they will freeze. Thank you for your advice!

    • Hi Leah, I’m not a big fan of frozen tofu, but it might work okay in this recipe. I’d be a little more concerned about the gluten-free noodles though. Gluten-free pasta just doesn’t seem to store as well as wheat pasta – it dries our and/or breaks easily.

  2. Susan M Lombard on

    This recipe is one of my families favorite, it is just awesome!! Add some vegan mozzarella on top towards the end to get a bit more of a cheesy Italian dish. They are also awesome the next day if you can keep everyone from eating them all.

  3. I can’t tell you how long its been since I’ve devoured (yes, I mean DEVOUR) some stuffed shells. Probably since going vegan (like 8 years ago). I’ve got to change that and going to start with this recipe.

  4. Pingback: Oprah's Scrambled Tofu Recipe: A Healthy Favorite from Dr. Andrew Weil

  5. Having some vegan dishes is super healthy and necessary!! I always have vegan meals at least twice a week.
    These vegan stuffed shells are truly a good choice for the week ?

  6. This looks so indulgent but it’s quite deceiving! All the ingredients are so good and make it super healthy! I can’t wait to try and sub with tofu!

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