Any day of the week, for special occasions, or to make for guests, these vegan stuffed shells are a bit of a treat. It is a bit more work than speedy pasta toss it in a pot and go kind of thing, but well worth it.
If you’ve never had stuffed shells, it’s a bit like a lazy ravioli. The pasta is filled after cooking, so you don’t need to make it from scratch, and then baked with tomato sauce. They’re usually filled with ricotta and sometimes meat, then topped with more cheese.
This vegan version uses meaty oyster mushrooms alongside spinach and cashew cream cheese for the filling. It’s delicious and so satisfying – try it!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Stuffed shells are always a bit of a treat, and this version is a bit lighter (i.e. not covered in cheese) and makes a good, filling dinner.
- It can be made ahead: make the filling in advance, or the whole dish, up to 12 hours ahead of time.
- Minimal ingredients: it’s a bit more work than boil and go pasta, but the ingredients needed are fairly minimal, at ten total ingredients with the marinara counting as one.
- You choose the effort: it’s up to you whether you want to go for homemade sauce, even homemade cream cheese or pasta – you can use store bought everything and still have an impressive main in the end. It’s weekend project versus weeknight meal.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Mushrooms: if you can’t get oyster mushrooms (they’re cheap at this time of year!) then use plain button or another type you like. Parasol would be excellent here.
- Spinach: use chopped large leaf spinach, baby kale or chard, or any type of hardy green you like in place of baby spinach. Frozen can be used, but it should be thawed in a colander first.
- Cashew cream cheese: other types of vegan cream cheese or crème fraîche can be used in place of the fermented cashew cream cheese. Vegan ricotta is a good substitution, but it’s a bit tricky to find a good one. Store bought is, of course, absolutely fine.
- Tomato sauce: I use this simple marinara but any store bought tomato sauce works too. Don’t use a bolognese here.
Step by Step
1. Sear the mushrooms: cook the mushrooms in a hot pan to sear, then add the onion and garlic. Cook the pasta.
2. Add spinach: turn off the heat and stir in the spinach to wilt.
3. Add cheese: stir the cheese through the mushroom mixture to combine.
4. Assemble: add the filling to the cooked shells, place in the sauce, and bake.
Use gluten free pasta if you need a GF option. I don’t have a brand to recommend but generally prefer those made with legumes.
I topped with roughly ground cedar nuts as a kind of parmesan, but a plant-based ‘parmesan’ can also be used.
Storage and Make Ahead
Storage: like most pasta dishes, the pasta will soak up any remaining sauce the longer it sits. While this can be refrigerated for up to three days, it’s best served immediately.
Freezing: assemble and freeze in a dish that’s both freezer and oven safe (think pyrex) and cover well. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking as usual.
Make Ahead: the filling can be made well in advance, up to 24 hours, and refrigerated until needed. The whole dish can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 12 hours before baking.
- Sear those mushrooms: this is key to almost any mushroom dish. Cook the mushrooms in a hot pan, stirring as little as possible, to evaporate any water and get a good colour.
- Undercook the pasta: the cooking time for the pasta is reduced slightly to avoid dreaded floppy noodles. They are baked for ten minutes, keep in mind, so boiling too long will cause very overcooked pasta in the end.
- Thin the sauce a little: you don’t want really thick, rich tomato sauce for this dish. Thin it with a splash of pasta water if it’s too thick, as some of the liquid will evaporate during baking.
More Pasta Recipes
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Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Shells
- 400 grams marinara (tomato sauce)
- 200 grams conchiglioni about 20 giant pasta shells
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 300 grams oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper to taste
- 100 grams baby spinach
- 150 grams cashew cream cheese
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
- Add the marinara to the base of a large baking dish, about 30×25 cm (12×10 in inches). Set aside.400 grams marinara (tomato sauce)
- Start the water for the pasta. Once the water boils, cook the shells in well salted water according to package directions. Cook for two minutes less than is stated on the package.200 grams conchiglioni
- In the meantime, prepare the filling. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the olive oil.2 teaspoons olive oil
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and spread into an even layer. Cook, avoiding stirring, for 3-4 minutes, or until browned.300 grams oyster mushrooms, finely chopped
- Add the onion and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook for another minute.1 small onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Take the pan off the heat and add the baby spinach. Stir to wilt the spinach with the residual heat from the pan.100 grams baby spinach
- Add the cashew cream cheese and stir through. Set aside until the pasta is ready.150 grams cashew cream cheese
- Drain the pasta (don’t rinse it). Working carefully, fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the filling. Place each filled shell into the tomato sauce in the baking dish, repeating until all of the shells are filled.
- Bake for 10 minutes. After this time, the pasta should be a bit bigger, but not browned.
- Remove from the oven, add any toppings you’d like, and serve immediately. Leftovers keep well for a day or two in a sealed container in the refrigerator.