Tofu Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells with a Summer Vegetable Bolognese


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.


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)


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.


  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).


  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.


  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.

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    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.


  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.


    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.


  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.


  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

Hello world!

Alright, you somehow made it through the billions of random places on the internet to my blog, so thank you!  Why am I doing this?  As you can note from the title of this blog and my pictures- I am both a doctor and obese. In this world those two things don’t align very well.  I strive to always provide the absolute best care for my patients- yet how can I do that when I am not able to do it for myself?  I wouldn’t tell my patients to quit smoking while blowing a plume of smoke in their face. So how can I effectively counsel them on healthy eating and weight loss when I continue to struggle with it every day myself? This is the reality I find myself in each day, and I have struggled with it for many years.

Ever since my last year of college I started gaining weight and gaining weight and have never been able to lose it.  Before then I always had time to exercise a minimum of one hour every day and played team sports all year round so it was never a problem for me to keep my weight reasonable, though I was always a curvy girl.  Well, when you are working 3 jobs and maintaining a med-school level GPA this starts to take up a lot of your time.  Once you are into medical school and then residency and onward as a doctor into your career-  jeez, forget about time for yourself.  In medical school I was so embarrassed and ashamed to have to team up with my fellow students and do physical exams together; my body was more like a middle aged woman and they all still had the bodies of high school students.  Those horrible group sessions were panic attack inducing and I still hate remembering them to this day; it really separated me from the people who were supposed to be my peers.  I now work as an attending physician at a large, busy hospital, and I am never treated poorly or ridiculed for my weight.  But when I walk into a patient’s room and hear them say to their family on the phone “I gotta go honey the housekeeper (or lab tech or social worker or nurse) is here,” I always wonder what’s keeping them from seeing me as the doctor? Is it just because I am a woman or because I am an obese woman? I know that I am an good doctor and respected in my field, but I will always have some self doubt that my appearance is ultimately undermining my credibility.

I have been a vegetarian since the age of 16, but I was the only one in my family to make this lifestyle change.  I never really liked meat and gradually ate less and less of it until one day I bit into a piece of chicken, got gristle, and just spit that poor bird out. I was pretty much left to fend for myself after that and ended up eating whatever was leftover at meals and lots of veggie nuggets, veggie dogs, etc.  The bulk of my diet was iceberg lettuce salads and vending machine food at lunch and take out and restaurant food or frozen food heated up the rest of the time.  This trend continued all through college and into my adulthood.  Most of the time when I cooked anything, a good deal of it was pre-made and pre-packaged and I just would combine it together. Quesadillas were doable, steaming veggies- but I was just a pretty terrible cook.

For the last 5-6 years I have been trying to get it together and change my ways.  I have gradually stopped getting take out and eating out many meals.  I am learning to cook slowly but surely.  There have been a lot of roadblocks, and it has not been a smooth ride!  I was doing well and losing weight consistently until I had a fall and blew out my knee and needed multiple surgeries to fix it.  Since then getting back into regular exercise and staying with it has been a challenge due to my “bum leg,” but I am continuing to work at it! And that brings us to this blog… I have really made a big change with what I am cooking and eating.  I have actual cookbooks and recipes galore and I use them!  I tweak a lot of things here and there to suit my tastes and that is what ends up on here in the final format.  I am still struggling right now with eating too much “junk” and processed food after I come home from work and am too tired to cook- so I want to make myself more accountable everyday.  Binging on junk for no reason is definitely a huge problem!  My husband Rob and I plan to adopt kids in the next few years, and I want to be able to set a good example for them- which I know we are not doing right now.

I’d like to say a final word about weight and body acceptance.  I am so very happy to see that recently there has been so much focus on body positivity and self-love.  When I was a teenager I was ridiculed for being a size 10-12 and it was really horrible. Nowadays there is so much more variety of shapes and sizes of women all over the media and I think that is a wonderful thing.  I can actually buy fashionable clothes so easily in my size (thank you @Macys @Loft @Nordstrom @Landsend and many others for making beautiful and affordable clothes of all sizes).  I take full advantage of this and dress my body up to show it off to its best advantage. However, the more obese people there are at younger ages, like myself now, the more we will have health problems when we are older.  I know many people who say “I am fat (or obese) but I am healthy, I have no medical problems”.  Yes, it is easy to be young and overweight or obese (overweight is BMI up to 30, obese is BMI over 30, morbid obesity BMI over 40 without other medical problems) and still be healthy.  What I worry about- in myself and all of the children, teens, and millennials out there whose weights are on the rise, is that we will be the ones with early onset heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, etc.  In fact, I already see many patients with just those problems who are in their early 30s or even younger- coming in to the hospital having heart attacks and strokes much earlier than they should be.  My point being: don’t hide your body or be ashamed- your weight is only one component of your overall being- but still continue to work to be healthier each day.  It is not healthy to be overweight and obese your whole life.  I wouldn’t counsel my patients to maintain an unhealthy weight, and this blog is about practicing what I preach.

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