Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vegan Ricotta & Sausage Stuffed Shells

I was watching the Food Network the other day and Giada making stuffed shells for her sister and I was fondly remembering a time when I could eat cheesy ricotta stuffed things when it I realized that I didn’t have to deny myself such yummy food.  I came up with my own version, a non dairy, soy sausage stuffed shells that tasted just as good.
I started with some large shell pasta.  You should be able to find these in most any store.  I would have preferred a whole wheat shell but I couldn’t find them.

Boil the shells for only four to five minutes, about half the time recommended on the box.  If you cook them any longer, they will fall apart, but you will be baking them later so they will soften up.   After five minutes, drain and cool the shells on a large plate or cookie sheet.

While the shells cool, make the filling.  Saute a chopped onion and two cloves of minced garlic in a pan and then add some chopped up soy sausage.  I use Tofurky Beer Brats because, unlike some soy sausages, these do not contain any hexane extracted soy isolates.  Do your arteries and your environment a favor and try them, they’re delicious.  When the sausage and onions were well browned, I stirred in two cups of chopped fresh spinach until it just started to wilt.  Then, I removed the pan from the heat and let it cool.

I made some non dairy ricotta cheese by mashing together equal parts of non dairy sour cream and medium soft tofu.  To this I added some dried basil.  I don’t have any fresh basil in my garden yet but fresh basil would also be wonderful.  You can see that it looks like ricotta.

Mix the cooled onion sausage mixture into the non dairy ricotta.  Pour a thin layer of your favorite pasta sauce into the bottom of your baking dish.  This will keep the shells from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of filling before putting them into the baking dish.

Cover the filled shells with some more sauce and bake for 30 minutes.  You can also freeze half of them for another time.  If frozen, they will take about an hour to bake.

I topped the finished shells with some sauteed mushrooms.  Mr. Recession Kitchen ate most of this pan all by himself...he really like them.  I never got around to freezing the second pan, they were so tasty we ate the second pan the next night.
Vegan Sausage & Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Makes 24 stuffed shells - Use organic ingredients whenever possible
I box (12 oz) Jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 Tofurky Beer Brat Sausages
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
6 oz (half a container) Tofutti non dairy sour cream
7 oz medium soft tofu (I use Wildwood)
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce or home made sauce
Sauteed mushrooms to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
Add the pasta shells and cook for five minutes, stirring gently a few times.
Drain the shells and allow them to cool on a cooke sheet, gently separating any that stuck together.
Heat a saute pan over a medium low heat and add the oil.
Chop the onion and add it to the pan, stirring occasionally for five minutes.
Mince the garlic and add it to the onions.
Slice the sausages lengthwise twice and then cut them into little pieces.
Add the sausage to the pan and cook for another five minutes.
Add the spinach and stir continuously until it starts to wilt and then turn off the heat and let it cool.
Put the sour cream in a large bowl.
Pat the tofu dry and cut it into four pieces.  
In the palm of your hand, gently squeeze out any excess water and then add the tofu to the sour cream.
Repeat this step with each piece.
Add the salt and basil and mash the tofu up with the sour cream.
Add the cooled sausage mixture to sour cream mixture and stir.
Put a thin layer of pasta sauce into the bottom of your baking dish.
Using a soup spoon, scoop up a heaping spoonful of the filling and insert it into each shell.
Set the shell into the pan and repeat until you’ve used up all of the filling.
(you may have some left over shells)
(At this point you can freeze half of the stuffed shells if you want)
Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells and bake for 30 minutes.
Garnish with some sauteed mushrooms and serve.

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