A family-friendly and easy plant-based stuffed shells recipe. This Spinach and Cashew-Ricotta Stuffed Shells casserole makes a great weekend meal for the whole family – and guests! It is a plant-based recipe that is dairy-free and vegan. Enjoy!
My tips for success are to assemble the ingredients early in the day.
Thaw the spinach and soak the cashews. I use a box of frozen chopped spinach to save time, and it’s so cheap it can’t be beat. I always put the box of spinach in a bag because sometimes the excess moisture leaks out. Thaw under cool running water, then place in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.
For the cashews I measure 2 cups into a 4 cup container, and fill with water to the 4 cup mark. When I am in a hurry I use hot water and leave it out while I am preparing the other ingredients. If you prepared ahead of time (high fives!) soak in the fridge.
Measure spices. Prepare sauce. Juice lemons. Boil a giant pot of water for the noodles. Cook noodles Al dente – about 9 minutes if you are using Barilla brand. If anyone has found whole-wheat jumbo shells PLEASE let me know!
Shells & Filling
Strain the jumbo shells. Drain the water from the cashews. I would say use a strainer, but I just use my hand to hold the cashews in the container while I drain out the water. Too many dishes!
Juice the lemons and add the lemon juice and strained cashews to a blender or food processor. Blend until as smooth as possible. I add around 1/4 cup water when using the Ninja blender to get it pretty smooth (see pic below for texture).
Stir together cashew-ricotta, spinach, and spices – yum!
You’re almost there! Pour the sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. I use my favorite jarred sauce, but sometimes when I’m feeling extra energized I make my own sauce from a plain canned tomato sauce and simmer with spices all day. The bonus with making it yourself is no added oil or preservatives. But I understand the time-crunched mama (hello – I am one!), and I use jarred most of the time.
Fill those shells! I use a teaspoon – the eating kind – not the measuring type. The box of shells makes around 36-40 shells, and the mixture fills 30 shells (I put 6 into a small baking dish for blog photos).
My kids like eating the noodles, so I save those for later.
Next time I make these shells I want to finely chop carrots and broccoli to add in the mix and fill the whole box of shells. Plus I will eat extra veggies!
Make sure you COVER the stuffed shells with foil before baking. You don’t want the noodles to get crispy. I did that once, it was not fun.
The baking time for this recipe is only required to heat the sauce and filling since the noodles are already cooked.
I could probably eat the whole pan without blinking an eye…but I fill up my belly first with a side spinach salad and serve with peas or broccoli on the side.
Spinach and Cashew-Ricotta Stuffed Shells
A family-friendly and satisfying plant-based stuffed shells casserole recipe. This recipe makes a great weekend dinner. It is a plant-based recipe that is also dairy-free and vegan. Enjoy!
- 12 ounces jumbo shells
- 24 ounces seasoned tomato sauce
- parsley, to garnish
- 2 cups raw cashews, soak to soften and drain
- 2 whole fresh lemons, juiced
- cashew-ricotta, see above
- 10 ounces frozen spinach, defrost and squeeze dry
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Gather all ingredients.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, enough for the entire box of jumbo shells.
Soften cashews by soaking in hot water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Use twice as much water as cashews to allow for expansion.
Thaw spinach. I like to place the box in a bag and run under cool water in a bowl while cashews are soaking. Or move box to fridge a day early to thaw.
Cook shells until Al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While noodles are boiling, juice lemons and blend cashews with lemon juice until smooth. Add water until smooth if you do not have a powerful blender or food processor. I used about 1/4 cup of water in addition to the lemon juice.
Remove spinach from the box and squeeze out excess moisture in paper towels. Add spinach, spices, and ricotta to a bowl and stir until combined.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.
Stuff jumbo shells with spinach-ricotta mixture. I use an eating teaspoon and am able stuff 30 shells. Place shells into the sauce, with stuffing facing up.
Cover the baking dish and bake in oven for 20 minutes until warmed through. Garnish with parsley and enjoy!
Serve with a side salad and green cooked green veggies.
Idea: To get more veggies in add up to 1 cup each of finely chopped broccoli and carrots, and you will use up the whole box of shells!
Calories are calculated per serving.