Stuffed Shells with Pesto

This recipe is a pretty big deal because it's my favorite. And it's Matt's favorite too!! We get all giddy at the thought of stuffed shells and when they come out of the oven... Well, it's very exciting. This isn't something we have too often because the amount of basil needed to make the pesto is not always readily available – or affordable. BUT, as luck would have it, Matt came home with a whole grocery bag FULL of fresh basil. Apparently a friendly neighbor had a basil plant that was out of control and needed to be trimmed down. So, this meant only one thing- STUFFED SHELLS!!
I got the recipes for both the pesto and the basil-tofu ricotta filling from one of my old favorites, Vegan With A Vengeance.

Classic Pesto Ingredients
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

½ cup walnuts
3 cups packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt (I recommend using about half this amount)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
½ cup nutritional yeast (optional – but I'd never leave it out!)
2 tsp. lemon juice

1. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven at 350* for 5 minutes or on a baking sheet in a conventional oven for 10 minutes, turning once. This step really is necessary! You'll appreciate the toasty flavor.

2. Combine the walnuts, basil, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender* and process while you add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Add the nutritional yeast and lemon juice, and pulse to combine. The sauce should be the consistency of a slightly grainy paste, not a puree. I like it to be a little thinner so it's easier to spread it on the shells so I add a little more olive oil until it's the right consistency.

*For the longest time I made the pesto with a blender, and it sucks. It takes forever and it's extremely frustrating. However, since my awesome neighbor let me borrow her food processor, making pesto is SO much easier. It's really just a joy!

Basil-Tofu Ricotta Ingredients
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound firm tofu, pressed
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. salt
Dash fresh black pepper
Handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast

1. In a large bowl, mush up the tofu with your hands (I use a fork) until it's crumbly.

2. Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Mush with your hands again; this you want to get it very mushy so squeeze through your fingers and mush until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese (again, I use a fork and it works just fine).

3. Add the olive oil, stir with a fork. Add the nutritional yeast and mix all ingredients well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Stuffed Shells with Pesto Ingredients

Classic pesto recipe
Basil-Tofu Ricotta recipe
½ box of jumbo shells

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly spray a baking dish with olive oil.

2. Boil water and cook shells until al dente. Drain, and rinse with cold water so they're easier to handle.

3. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of Basil-Tofu ricotta into each shell (enough to fill it). Place each shell with the open side facing down on the baking dish.

4. Smear about a tablespoon of pesto on to each shell. It's not going to look pretty, but it's tasty.

5. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and ENJOY!

This time, I threw some cherry tomatoes into the mix just to add some more color and flavor. I also doubled this recipe because Matt can easily take down about 20 shells at dinner and it's nice to have some left overs the next day! Mmm Mmm Mmm!


kate said...

This is one of my favorites too!