Learn how to make the best Vegan Stuffed Ricotta Shells with an unbelievable dairy-free almond ricotta and spinach mixture! Nobody will believe this is oil-free or vegan. It is the epitome of delicious comfort food!
I used my homemade pizza sauce for this because it really has so much more flavor than jarred marinara and only takes 5 mins to make, but use what you like, knowing that the dish will take on the flavor you choose. If using my pizza sauce, you'll need to double the recipe and will be left with 1 extra cup of sauce and just use that for a pizza or another pasta dish.
First, make the ricotta cheese. You will need a day in advance for this or to start soaking the almonds in the early morning to make this for dinner the day of.
Add 5 quarts (20 cups) water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the pasta shells. Give it a stir and cook until almost aldente, about 9 minutes. You want the shells just slightly undercooked since they will finish cooking in the oven and don't want them mushy or falling apart.
Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water and set aside for a minute.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and get out a 9x13 baking dish.
While the pasta is boiling, add the spinach to a large pan over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring constantly until it is just wilted-you don't want to overcook it, about 3-5 minutes. Add the cooked spinach to a strainer and let it cool a couple of minutes. Pick the spinach up with your hands and squeeze to strain the excess water, trying hard to get as much out as you can.
Add the ricotta cheese to a large bowl with the spinach, Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix very well.
To the baking dish, add 1 cup of the pizza sauce and spread it out across the bottom. Stuff all the shells with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the ricotta mixture carefully and place into the dish, giving a bit of space in between each one.
Spoon the remaining 2 cups of sauce in between and around the edges of the shells and a drizzle of it over the center of the shells (see photo). This allows the beauty of the shells to still be seen but still soak up some of that yummy sauce.
Place a piece of foil over the dish and bake for 30 minutes until piping hot and bubbly. You won't technically see the bubbling, but you will hear it. Remove and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.
Prep time does not include the soaking of the almonds for the ricotta cheese.