Hello, and welcome to the Virtual Vegan Potluck! This is my third time participating and I am honored to have been one of the lucky winners last time around. By now you've probably whet your appetite with the yummy appetizers and first courses, I hope I can keep your taste buds flowing with my entree, Stuffed Shells Florentine.
I know, it's Autumn and everything's all about pumpkin & spice, mashed potatoes & stuffing and all of the wonderful components of a traditional Thanksgiving feast. I love all of that, and normally I'd be jumping right in there with everyone, planning & shopping and cooking for the Big Day. However, this year things are different. Due to circumstances and distance, we have decided not to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner at our house, but instead will be driving to Gainesville to dine at Kristyn's home. I'm really excited about this and know that she and Jesus will be wonderful hosts and along with her sisters will create a fantastic meal! I also must confess: after 25+ years of hosting almost every holiday, I'm ready to turn over the baton for this one!
So, what this means I can skip over the Tofurky Day planning and zip right over to Yule! As I've mentioned before, I'm hopelessly enamored with all things Italian. It's my favorite way to cook, and eat, and this is never more obvious than on Christmas Eve. Our family's longstanding tradition has been cooking up a big Italian meal on that night, preparing enough food to feed extended family, friends, co-workers, whomever may want to stop by for a glass of vino and a plate of pasta. My "signature dish," the one I'm known for, the most requested for not only holidays but birthdays & other celebrations: Stuffed Shells Florentine. Served right after antipasto and before the salad (to help digestion, they say), with a hunk of good Italian bread to soak up the sauce....delizioso!
Now, since going vegan I have been experimenting with a dairy-free version of this recipe, trying many different recipes calling for various vegan cheeses, both commercially-produced and homemade, in attempt to replicate the gooey cheesy goodness of the original. After much trial & error, I believe I may have come up with the perfect mix, but in order to be 100% sure, I had to get input from a professional, a real Italian: my ex-husband/friend Glenn.
So, last Sunday I dropped Chip off at Glenn's house to watch football, went back home and started cooking. With my favorite Italian music booming in the background, I got down to business.
I boiled & drained, mixed and filled...
Sauced and Baked...
Until, finally, they were ready! I packed a bag with salad, dressing, bread, veggie Parmesan, and a tray of shells, hopped in my car and headed back to Glenn's house to serve.
As I watched nervously, he sat, he sniffed, he sprinkled on the Parm..and then, he tasted..
And at last, the moment I had been waiting & hoping for..the smile broke across his face and his eyes closed in enjoyment. Ahh...he gave his hearty seal of approval. Whew! I did it! What a relief to know that I can continue to enjoy this family tradition for years to come, and no animals have to suffer for our tummies or taste buds. And now, I share the recipe with you!
Stuffed Shells Florentine
- 1 Package (12oz) Jumbo Shells
- 14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu, drained
- 8 ounces non-dairy mozzarella-style cheese (I use almond "cheese" such as this one from Lisanatti)
- 1/2 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese (such as this one from Go Veggie), plus more for topping
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning (or a mix of fresh basil & parsley if you prefer)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon tamari
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
- 1 jar (32oz) pasta sauce of your choice (plus more for serving)
- Prepare pasta as directed on package, cooking til tender but still slightly firm (al dente); drain. Rinse with cold water, drain and when cool enough to handle, arrange in single layer to fill.
- Meanwhile, mix together cheeses, spices, olive oil & spinach. Using a teaspoon, fill cooked shells with cheese mixture, about a tablespoon per shell. Because some shells inevitably break, you'll probably have between 30 - 40 shells.
- Cover bottom of roasting pan with a layer of the sauce. Arrange filled shells in single layer in the pan. If desired, top with extra mozzarella and Parmesan. Pour remaining sauce over shells, cover with foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot. Remove foil, bake another 15 minutes or so until cheese is melted and bubbly.