Jeanine’s butternut squash stuffed shells recipe is perfect as-is if you’re a true vegan and do not want to incorporate any dairy. We are not quite there yet, however and I also need my 4 year old to enjoy it, so you’ll see I adapted her version and added cheese to mine. I don’t think I will ever be able to give up cheese despite the awful things it does to my belly!
Here’s how my adaptation breaks down:
- 1½ cups cubed butternut squash
- extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 16 jumbo shells (in my version I used manicotti because – thanks Covid – there were no large shells to be found. You could really do any type of pasta here though – lasagna, penne for a bake, etc. heck go wild and do spaghetti squash if you want!)
- 1½ cups raw cashews*, see note
- 1 cup fresh water
- 1 garlic clove (I used 3, YUM)
- 3½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 cup crumbled firm tofu
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cashew cream, from the recipe above
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Start by roasting the butternut squash at 350°F drizzled with olive oil and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Roast them until they are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes total.
- Before you get to the cashew cream and filling, get your noodles started. Cook until al dente (and add a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking!)
- Next, make the cashew cream. (Spoiler alert: this stuff is SO good and so easy to make!) Blend together the drained raw cashews, fresh water, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. I added more garlic because, well – garlic! YUM!
- In a medium skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach in increments, along with some salt, and sauté until all the spinach wilted. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the sauté and chop well.
- Make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped spinach with the crumbled tofu, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, at least 1/4 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup of cashew cream, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of ricotta. Season to taste, adding more salt and pepper as desired.
- Assemble the bake. Start by spreading ¼ cup of the reserved cashew cream and a layer of butternut squash on the bottom of an 11×7-inch baking dish. Then depending on what you use for pasta, fill each cooked shell/manicotti with some of the filling and a few cubes of butternut squash (I found it easier to just mix a bunch of the butternut squash into my filling), and place into the baking dish.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over the shells, sprinkle with mozzarella and a little more salt, pepper and oregano, cover with foil, and bake for 15-30 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the oven and serve with the remaining cashew cream. ENJOY!