Tofu Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells with a Summer Vegetable Bolognese

20150918_35

I wanted to start off with a delicious recipe that I cobbled together from several others.  Tofu ricotta stuffed shells are pretty commonly seen and I just tweaked the filling a little bit here for my taste.  The sauce really makes this dish for me. It is a take off of what is actually supposed to be the filling from a recipe in a wonderful cookbook of April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens. I really enjoy this book but my goodness the woman loves cream and butter.  Not so great for someone trying to cut back on those things!  So I decided to flip the filling into a sauce, kick out the cream and here we go!

Serves 6-8 as a main course.  Takes about 2.5 hours to complete whole recipe.

Ingredients

1 box of jumbo shell pasta

3 10.5 ounce packages of cherry tomatoes

1 28 ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes

2 ears corn

1/2 zuchinni

1/2 yellow squash

1 red onion

4 handfuls of basil

4 teaspoons kosher salt (or whatever salt you prefer)

2 pinches of ground pepper

6 cups raw spinach (divided into 2 cups and 4 cups, finely chopped)

1-4 tablespoons of crushed red pepper (per your taste, I am addicted to red pepper!)

8 cloves garlic

1/2 cup olive oil (EVOO)

2 14 ounce packages of firm or extra firm tofu

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Parmesan cheese for grating on top (if desired, can leave out)

Directions

Place a large pot of water to boil on the stove.  While heating up take all of your cherry tomatoes and cut a small slice into their outer skin with a sharp knife.  Don’t slice all the way into their centers.

Next, fill an bowl with ice water and place it next to your pot of boiling water.  Place all your cherry tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath after this time.  The skins should be easy to remove at this point, so take your time and peel off all the skins.  This is time consuming for all these little tomatoes; it will take about 30 minutes to just prep your tomatoes!  All this while, leave your water boiling.

20150918_24

  At this point, set your meticulously peeled tomatoes aside for later.  While peeling tomatoes or after, cook your pasta.  Don’t cook it to mush, cook for about 8-9 minutes until al dente then take out and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.  After rinsing, place shells on paper towels upside down to get all the water out of them.  You may lose some to breakage (I lose about a half dozen).

20150918_19

  Time to start prepping the sauce.  You will use the same large pot to cook it in.  Chop up 4 cloves of garlic and the red onion.  Warm up 1/4 cup of olive oil in the pot until glistening on medium heat.  Add the red onion to the pot with a big pinch of salt.  Cook for about 6 minutes, do not burn the onions.  At this time, add the garlic to the pot.  You want to try and gently brown the garlic by itself, so push the onions to the side and cook the garlic in the oil for a minute or two.  When turning golden, mix all together, turn heat down to medium-low, and cover for 6-8 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  While this is cooking along, chop up a handful of basil.  Add to the mix while cooking and keep stirring.  Then chop up 2 cups of spinach and add it to the pot as well. All told keep it going for about another 10 minutes. The onions will really soften up and get a nice light brown color for you.

20150918_26

  Now you have a nice base for your sauce.  This next part will all be uncovered cooking. Time to add in your tomatoes.  Add all the fresh peeled cherry tomatoes first.  I let them simmer a little on medium heat for 5-10 minutes or so and then you need to go in and mash them up.  I use a potato masher for this.  You can use a whisk if you don’t have one, it will do with a little more effort.  If you have somebody who likes to break or smash things now is their time to shine (I call in my hubby Rob for these duties).  Keep on at it with simmering and mashing until they are all broken down into sauce consistency.  At this point, add another large pinch of salt, some pepper, another handful of chopped basil, and I add a good 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper to spice it up.  (Less if you don’t like spice!)  While you are between smashing and stirring, you need to chop your other veg.  I do a small chop on the zuchinni and squash and I take my corn off the cob by placing it into a large bowl as shown below, so it doesn’t go flying all over the place. You will have some time during this period to also make your tofu ricotta, see below.

20150918_21 20150918_28

    Once your tomatoes are broken down in consistency, I add my canned extra tomatoes and do the same thing to smash them up.  This just helps us to add more liquid to our sauce.  After those tomatoes are also broken down, add your corn next.  Let it cook for about 5-6 minutes and then in goes the zucchini and squash.  After that, just let it simmer on medium-low heat until you are ready to put it on your pasta.

   Turn the oven on now to preheat to 400 degrees.

20150918_30

  The tofu ricotta comes together pretty quickly.  First, chop up 4 cloves of garlic and get them into some glistening oil in a saute pan with some red pepper flakes (if you like spicy- I do at least a tablespoon).  While that is heating give a rough chop to 4 cups of spinach. Get that into the pan with the garlic and oil and wilt down for a couple minutes.

  While the spinach is wilting, get your two tofu packs.  Get the water out by squeezing with paper towels (or you could have already had in the tofu press while you were doing all your other cooking before).  You can get it messy and crumble it, it is going into the food processor anyway.  When it is not waterlogged, place into food processor.  Add the spinach mixture from the pan.  Add oregano, lemon juice, olive oil (one to two tablespoons), two pinches salt and pepper, the nutritional yeast.  I throw in some more CRP (crushed red pepper) and a large pinch of cayenne at this point as well, but you will do just fine leaving them out. Pulse together until smooth.

20150918_29

    Assemble the dish to bake.  This makes enough for one 9 x 13 dish and a smaller side bowl with 6-8 shells as well.  Line them all up, place about 2 big spoonfuls of the tofu ricotta in each and place in the dish.

20150918_31

  Take your delicious and hearty sauce and spoon over the dish evenly.  Place into the over and bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove and if you prefer, top with Parmesan (or vegan substitute) cheese.  Place back into oven at broil temperature for about 3 minutes.

20150918_34

  This was so good and hearty! It heats up really well for leftovers, too.

Thanks for stopping by!  Please leave any feedback and I am happy to answer questions/comments/emails!

** As noted above, I adapted part of this recipe from A Girl and her Greens.  You can (and I recommend you do) pick this up at Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Her-Greens-Hearty-Garden/dp/006222588X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442611943&sr=1-1&keywords=a+girl+and+her+greens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: