The shells are filled with a rich blend of lentils, caramelized onions, roasted bell pepper, broccoli, garlic, and just a hint of cumin then baked in a homemade roasted garlic tomato sauce.
In all honesty, no one in my household is vegan, but we devoured the whole pan of these beauties in one sitting and declared them scrumptious.
Tea and Side Pairings
For a vegan dinner party you could easily have these shells as the star of the show.
Start the meal with cups of Curried Pea Soup topped with crispy fried onions and provide a basket of thick slices of Crusty Olive Rosemary Loaf both for dipping in the soup and later for mopping up the luscious roasted garlic tomato sauce the vegan stuffed shells are baked in.
End the meal with an assortment of homemade dairy-frees such as Cherry Coconut Truffles and Macadamia Coffee Truffles, and a big mug of tea.
Try our Soul Warmer Herbal Tea with rooibos, apple pieces, cocoa nibs, orange peel, calendula, blue cornflowers, and hazelnut and chestnut essences or Night Cap Herbal Tea with peppermint, green rooibos, lemongrass, hibiscus, rosehip, chamomile, and valerian root.
Golden Cacao Herbal Tea is another comforting option with honeybush tea, turmeric pieces, ginger root, cocoa peel, cocoa nib, black peppercorns, aniseed, fennel, blackberry leaves, and vanilla pieces.
How to Make Vegan Stuffed Shells
This dish begins with a really good tomato sauce.
While you can use any bottled tomato sauce, I love the richness of roasted tomatoes and garlic together and how creamy they become when blended together. The roasting keeps the sauce from becoming watery and splitting during the baking process.
You can also fold in some fresh basil or oregano before assembling the dish to make it even more fragrant and flavorsome.
The next step is the filling.
I started with caramelizing a large onion until it was dark and sweet, then blended it with tender lentils, smoky roasted bell peppers, a handful of steamed broccoli florets, a clove or two of garlic, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a scant teaspoon of cumin, and a couple of eggs to bind it all together.
You could add vegan cheese for even more savory goodness. Other delicious additions to the onion and lentil base could be sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and a vegan pesto, or roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potato, and finely chopped spinach. Taste after each addition until the filling is just the way you want it.
I made this dish with large pasta shells, but if you want to make it even more elegant, you can use jumbo pasta shells. Instead of scooping the filling with the large shells, you can stuff the jumbo shells with a spoon and fold them closed so the filling doesn't escape.
If you're using jumbo shells, be sure to spoon sauce over the pasta before baking so the shells don't dry out or burn.
Once the vegan stuffed shells are baked, I like to top them with a generous sprinkle of torn, fresh basil leaves.
This dish is lovely served steaming hot from the oven, but it's also great served cold the next day for a quick and easy lunch.
Healthful and Hearty Vegan Stuffed Shells
- 1 packet large pasta shells
- 12 large tomatoes
- 1 head garlic
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 can lentils, drained
- 1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets, cooked
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Quarter tomatoes and arrange, cut side up, in one layer on baking sheets. Halve garlic clove and place in center of each baking tray. Drizzle tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, sprinkle, with salt and pepper, and roast 40-50 minutes until edges begin to blacken.
Remove from oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Remove garlic from tray and place, cut side down, on cutting board. With rolling pin or butcher knife, press the garlic to squeeze out roasted garlic. Discard garlic skins and place roasted garlic in blender. Add tomatoes and pulse until smooth. Taste and season if necessary. Set aside.
Cooking according to package directions. When cooked, pour into a strainer and immediately rinse with cold water. Return to pan, cover, and set aside.
Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes, reduce heat to medium and cook another 20-25 minutes until onions are caramelized and dark brown. Remove from heat and pour into food processor.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Pour tomato sauce into 9” by 13” baking dish.
Using pasta shells as a scoop, scoop about 1 tsp of filling into each shell then set into the tomato sauce. Repeat until pan is full.
Bake 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool five minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.