Saturday, November 16, 2013

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Stuffed Shells Florentine


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...

Stuffed Shells Filling photo 20131110_131016_zps0142f900.jpg

Stuffed Shells Raw photo 20131110_131843_zpscbc09cf8.jpg

Sauced and Baked...

 photo 20131110_132645_zps6b1b6214.jpg

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.

Stuffed Shells Dinner photo 20131110_184710_zps06fcf9f6.jpg

 As I watched nervously, he sat, he sniffed, he sprinkled on the Parm..and then, he tasted..

Stuffed Shells Glenn photo 20131110_184953_zpsde3b75e8.jpg

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 close-up photo 20131110_184717_zps76eb93c6.jpg

 

Stuffed Shells Florentine

 

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
 Makes 6 to 8 generous servings.

For more scrumptious main dishes, make sure you visit the awesome blogger that precedes mine, Veghotpot, and the fabulous one after, Yum for Tum.  You don't want to miss a single delicious bite!

Buon Appetito!

Michele


31 comments:

  1. The recipe looks delicious. I'm going to try it. Any problem using fresh spinach?

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    1. Thank you, Karen! Nope, no problem at all; I've used fresh spinach with equally good results.

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  2. Looks fantastic! And, do you remember how my family studies a different country each Christmas. A few weeks ago, my girls and I choose Italy as our country! Now I know who my go-to expert will be. ;)

    I was hoping to find a pizzelle maker to make something extra fancy for the cookie tray.

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    1. Aisling, I love your family's tradition! I've made pizzelle for the past few years, they are so easy and so yummy! I need to find a vegan version now, tho.

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  3. I tried the links you provided on the cheese product and only got some funky Google screen. Is it just me????

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    1. Thank you for the heads up, Karen, I fixed it! :)

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  4. Heaven! its been so long since i've had stuffed shells. All kinds of delicious xx

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! Wish you were here to enjoy a big plate of them w/me. :)

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  5. Mom, those pictures look great! Daddys happy food face doesn't lie, the shells must have been great!

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    1. Thank you, sweetie! Hopefully you'll give me your own happy food face on Christmas Eve. xoxo

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  6. Lovely little bundles of yumminess! Thank you so much for being a part of the Potluck again!

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    1. Thank you, Annie, for both the compliment and all of your hard work!

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  7. These look fabulous! I have definitely been warming up to the idea of baked pasta dishes more in recent years, and yours seems like it occupies the perfect middle ground of healthy and delicious. This is the kind of comfort food I've been craving now that days of cooler weather have arrived. Yum!

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    1. Thank you, I happen to love pasta in any form!:)

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  8. Your stuffed shells sound so delicious! I think it's so cool when people are able to remain friends with their exes, especially when there are children involved. It makes it so much easier if people can remember what made them connect initially, even if the romance aspect didn't work out.

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    1. Thank you, Cadry. At first we worked really hard on it, and now it's just second nature, we actually do like each other! ;)

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  9. It looks really good. I have tried something with the large shells before, but it did not look nearly as pro' as yours!
    I think I would want more than 4 of the shells if I were dishing for myself ;D

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  10. They really look so good. I'd want more than 4 shells!
    Thank you for the great recipe.

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    1. Well, come on over! You can have as many as your heart desires! :)

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  11. I can see why they're your signature dish, they look and sound delicious!

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  12. Love the story of you and your hunny on the about page. This florentine is the perfect Italian Christmas Eve dinner. My Sicilian vegan husband would give a big thumbs up!!

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    1. Thank you, Gigi! You and hubby are welcome to dinner anytime. :)

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  13. What an amazing creation! Wishing this was something I could eat now instead of drooling over the pictures!

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  14. I love big stuffed shells, I recently made a vegan version as well and was relieved by how good it tasted and how easy it was to make! Yours look very similar, and very lovely.

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