Vegan Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

This recipe is a favorite over at Love and Lemons, mostly because (in their opinion) it hardly tastes vegan. The “ricotta,” – made from cashew cream, crumbled tofu, herbs, and lemon zest – is rich and flavorful. If your loved ones are squeamish about tofu, just don’t tell them. They’ll never suspect it here. Stuff your shells (or red bell pepper, if you’re gluten-free) with roasted butternut squash, bake them, and top with dollops of the extra cashew cream.
butternut-squash-shells
Vegan Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells; Photo: Love and Lemons

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups cubed butternut squash
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 16 jumbo shells (or 4 red bell peppers, cut in half and seeds scooped out)
cashew cream
  • 1½ cups raw cashews*(see note)
  • 1 cup fresh water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
filling
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashew cream (from the recipe above)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the butternut squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Make the cashew cream: Blend together the drained raw cashews, fresh water, garlic, lemon juice, and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. Make the filling: In a medium skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach in increments, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté until all the spinach is incorporated and wilted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Squeeze out any excess liquid and chop. In a medium bowl, combine the the spinach with the crumbled tofu, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup of cashew cream. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain.
  5. Assemble the shells. Spread ¼ cup of the reserved cashew cream on the bottom of an 11×7-inch baking dish. Fill each shell with some of the filling and a few cubes of butternut squash, and place into the baking dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the shells and bake, covered, for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the oven and serve with the remaining cashew cream.
 Notes
*Soak cashews in water 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight, then drain and rinse.
Makes: 4 | Prep: 15-20 minutes | Cooks: 40 minutes
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