Preheat the oven to 350. Grab a jar of your favorite pasta sauce (or 3 cups of good homemade stuff) and pour about a cup and a half into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish. Set that aside. Note: If you like spicy things, a fra diavolo or arrabbiata sauce is super good here, because it really stands out next to the creaminess of the shells. I love Delallo Pomodoro Fresco Arrabbiata. It's a bit pricey, so I always pick up several jars when I find it on sale. It's SO flavorful and most people think it's VERY spicy.
For the filling:
1 block of extra firm tofu, liquid drained off
1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 TBS lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (do not use salt if your cashews are salted!)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 TBS olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp basil (optional)
1/2 tsp oregano (optional)
Put cashews in a pan with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, allowing them to soften. Boil for 5 minutes, then cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes (you want the cashews to soften). Now's a good time to boil the pasta!
Once the cashews have gotten softer, put them in a high-powered blender (Vitamix, Blendtec, etc) along with the water that you boiled them in. Blend until smooth and creamy. If you don't have a strong blender, they may need to soak much longer, even overnight. You'll want to add water if this happens - the result should be a thick, creamy, and totally smooth puree. To that puree, add the tofu, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and garlic, plus the spices if you're using them. Get this all nice and smooth too. It'll be very thick - you want that!
For the pasta:
This makes enough for 20 shells (usually labeled as jumbo shells), so boil 24 shells. There will always be a few that self-destruct and this helps so you don't have to worry about that. If you've been a known destroyer of noodles, maybe make 26. Or heck, make the whole box and save the extra noodles for something else! Once they're done cooking (15 minutes, usually) you can drain them and set them aside.
For the finished product:
If the shells are hot, run cool water over them. Grab either an 1/8 cup measuring cup or a tablespoon, get the shells, filling, and the baking dish nearby, and pick up your first shell. You'll put 1/8 of a cup (or 2 TBS) of filling in each shell, then set it aside seam-up in the sauced baking dish. Keep doing this until you have a tight little bundle of 20, then cover with the rest of the sauce. If you're better at scraping out your blender than I am, you might have a little filling left over, and if you do, I recommend topping the shells with dollops of that excess. If you like Daiya or another vegan mozzarella, you can add it to the top now. It's not necessary, though, but it kicks the decadence level up a notch.
This whole recipe makes 20 shells and I usually go for 3 for myself. The nutritional info is for 3 shells in their portion of the sauce!
Carbs: 31 g
Protein: 13.3 g
Fat: 16.3 g
Sodium: 443 mg
Fiber: 3.5 g
Sugar: 5.4 g
Vitamin A: 21%
Vitamin C: 52%