Vegan Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Cheese 🌱Jumbo pasta shells filled with creamy vegan cheeses and spinach baked in a rich marinara sauce and topped with toasty breadcrumbs & vegan parmesan. Feeling hungry yet?
There's nothing quite like the satisfying goodness of a great baked pasta dish, like this vegan version of classic Italian stuffed shells. This recipe has been a favorite at our house for years. We've served this to family and friends with rave reviews every time! After all, what is there not to love about pasta, cheese, more cheese, marinara sauce and veggies?
Why we love this recipe
- It's super delicious and filling.
- The perfect dish to serve vegans and non-vegans alike
- Can be prepared several hours in advance
- Vegan stuffed shells are so easy to make!
- Great for potluck parties or gatherings
- You can substitute ingredients if needed
How to prepare vegan stuffed shells with spinach and cheese
I really enjoy making these. Not only are they easy to prepare, it's fun to do! If you like to play with your food, then this is the dish for you! In all seriousness, once you put together a batch of these scrumptious stuffed pasta shells, I'm pretty sure you're going to add this to your list of favorites.
See more tips on how to make the best vegan stuffed shells by watching my video!
🥕 Ingredient Notes
🥕 See the printable recipe below for quantities and details.
Since the spinach stuffed shells bake in marinara sauce, the flavors of the sauce you use will influence the overall dish. I suggest using your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce or try our delish recipe for a simple homemade marinara sauce.
Choose your cheese
I know what you're thinking . . . what's the best vegan cheese to use in this recipe? I like to combine at least two varieties of soft cheeses, like a plain vegan cream cheese and ricotta. Can't find vegan ricotta? No problem - just substitute with more cream cheese, vegan mozzarella or any other favorite vegan cheese of your choice. I love to the stuffed shells with a sprinkle of this easy homemade vegan diner-style parmesan.
Speaking of homemade vegan cheese, here are a couple of the best & easiest recipes for making your own fantastic cheese sauces:
- Easy Vegan Cheese Sauce - Creamy and cheddary, perfect to use with pasta, nachos, veggies, potatoes or pretzels.
- Vegan Cheese Fondue Recipe - Thick and rich with a classic European flavor and ideal for anything you might enjoy with cheese fondue.
Breadcrumbs or no breadcrumbs?
Toasty breadcrumbs add a nice crispy topping. I like to sprinkle a small amount of Italian style breadcrumbs (and vegan parmesan) on top of the shells during the last 10 minutes of baking. If you can't find, or, prefer not to use Italian breadcrumbs, it's perfectly fine to omit them. I would still suggest adding a few pinches of parmesan for the extra flavor.
Shells done well
While you're preparing the filling is the perfect time to cook the jumbo shells. Follow the package directions and keep an eye on them as you don't want them to overcook or become too soft or they will fall apart when filling. Perfectly prepared pasta shells should be 'al dente', still slightly firm when bitten. If necessary, run the cooked shells under cold water to prevent them from cooking further. Be sure to drain the pasta well.
Squeeze that spinach
For simplicity, I like to use thawed frozen cut spinach. Yes, you can use fresh if you like, but if you do, first blanch it in boiling water for a couple minutes (to tenderize it) and then chop it. Either way, be sure to thoroughly drain all the excess water from the spinach before combining it with the cheese. One of the easiest methods is to put the ol' Popeye squeeze on that spinach. Just grab a handful and make a tight fist. You'll be surprised how much extra water will drain out.
Preheat oven to 375℉. Cook pasta shells (al dente) per package directions.
Place soft cheeses, spinach, garlic & seasonings in a bowl.
Pour 2 cups of marinara sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.
Use a spoon to carefully stuff the pre-cooked shells with filling (try not to tear the shells). Arrange in rows inside baking dish.
Cover with foil and bake at 375℉ for 25 minutes.
Remove foil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and vegan parmesan.
Continue baking (uncovered) for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and breadcrumbs/cheese are golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
Spoon additional hot marinara sauce over shells when plating. Garnish with a few fresh basil leaves and an additional sprinkle of vegan parmesan. Enjoy your vegan stuffed shells with spinach & cheese with a side salad & garlic bread!
If you can't find them at a grocery store, here's a simple way to make your own homemade breadcrumbs. Simply air dry a few slices of white bread, cut into cubes and pulse in a blender or food processor with ½ teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning, until the breadcrumbs are coarse or a texture you like. If you don't have time to air dry the bread, place the slices on a baking sheet in a low 200℉ oven. Check the bread every 10-15 minutes until it is completely dried out.
Cover leftover baked shells with remaining marinara sauce and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days. Reheat by microwaving in 1 minute increments or in a covered oven proof dish at 350℉ for 10-15 minutes.
I find the easiest and tidiest way is by putting a scoop of filling into a teaspoon or soupspoon. Gently open up a shell (avoid tearing it) and hold it in one hand while inserting the spoonful of filling, lightly pinching the sides of the shell while pulling out the spoon.
Yes, it can be stored unbaked and covered in a refrigerator for several hours. Allow about 45 minutes for it to bake and sit before serving.
Yes, if you use gluten-free pasta shells and gluten-free breadcrumbs. Always be sure to check the ingredients on all packaged ingredients to make sure the products do not contain wheat, gluten or have not been manufactured with shared equipment.
These shells are so satisfyingly scrumptious, they're a meal on their own, but I like to serve this dish with a fresh green salad, garlic bread and a sprinkle of our easy vegan parmesan. If you're feeding a crowd, you might want to pair these with a batch of our amazing meatless meatballs. No one will go hungry, I promise!
I particularly love this Italian Chopped Salad Recipe by my friend Kathy Carmichael from her vegan blog Kathy's Vegan Kitchen. It would be a perfectly delish side dish with stuffed shells.
🥕If you enjoyed these vegan spinach stuffed shells with spinach and cheese, you're going to love these delish dishes!
- Best Vegan Zucchini Ravioli
- Simple Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Great Homemade Vegan Pizza Dough
- Vegan Spinach Pesto with Pistachios
- Best Vegan Meatless Meatballs
Vegan Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Cheese
- large bowl
- large spoon for mixing
- teaspoon for filling
- 24 jumbo pasta shells cooked al dente per package instructions
- 16 oz spinach chopped - fresh or frozen* spinach is fine - *be sure to thaw and drain thoroughly before using
- 1 8 oz pkg vegan cream cheese
I like Miyokos
- ½ C vegan ricotta style cheese or other soft vegan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg ground
- 24 oz marinara sauce bottled or homemade
- ⅓ C bread crumbs Italian style
- ¼ C vegan parmesan grated
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Combine spinach, ricotta and cream cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
- In a microwave-safe dish, heat garlic and olive oil for 20 seconds in microwave.
- Add garlic and oil to spinach/cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- Pour ⅔'s of the marinara sauce (2 cups) in the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.
- Using a teaspoon, fill each shell with spinach/cheese mixture.
- Place filled shells (open side up) in pan.
- Cover pan with foil and bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
- Remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumbs and parmesan over shells. Continue baking (uncovered) for 10 minutes until bread crumbs are golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
- When ready to serve, heat up remaining marinara sauce and spoon over shells. Add extra parmesan if desired.
🥕Cooking Tips Sauce Matters Since these spinach stuffed shells bake in marinara sauce, the flavors of the sauce you use will influence the overall dish. I suggest using your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce or try our delish recipe for a simple homemade marinara sauce. 🥕In the video I poured the remaining sauce over the top of the shells before baking. You can do that too or reserve it to spoon onto the shells before serving. Choose Your Cheese I know what you’re thinking . . . what’s the best vegan cheese to use in this recipe? I like to combine at least two varieties of soft cheeses, like a plain vegan cream cheese and ricotta. Can’t find vegan ricotta? No problem – just substitute with more cream cheese, mozzarella or any other favorite of your choice. Want to make your own vegan version of Italian diner style parmesan? Try this recipe. Breadcrumbs Or No Breadcrumbs? Toasty breadcrumbs add a nice crispy topping. I like to sprinkle a small amount of Italian style breadcrumbs (and vegan parmesan) on top of the shells during the last 10 minutes of baking. If you can’t find, or, prefer not to use Italian breadcrumbs, it’s perfectly fine to omit them. I would still suggest adding a few pinches of parmesan for the extra flavor. Shells Done Well While you’re preparing the filling is the perfect time to cook the jumbo shells. Follow the package directions and keep an eye on them as you don’t want them to overcook or become too soft or they will fall apart when filling. Perfectly prepared pasta shells should be ‘al dente’, still slightly firm when bitten. If necessary, run the cooked shells under cold water to prevent them cooking further. Be sure to drain them well. Squeeze That Spinach For simplicity, I like to use thawed frozen cut spinach. Yes, you can use fresh if you like, but if you do, first blanch it in boiling water for a couple minutes (to tenderize it) and then chop it. Either way, be sure to thoroughly drain all the excess water from the spinach before combining it with the cheese. One of the easiest methods is to put the Popeye squeeze on that spinach in your hands. Just grab a handful and make a tight fist. See more tips on how to make the best vegan stuffed shells by watching my video!
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
Hi. Would this dish freeze well? I like to make two of everything and freeze one 😉 If so, how would you recommend cooking it (once frozen)? Thanks - I'm excited to try this dish this weekend! 🙂
Connie Edwards McGaughy
Hi Jody! I haven't tried freezing these before, but if I did, I would likely package the unbaked stuffed shells, covered in additional sauce in a freezer/oven-proof baking dish with an airtight snap-on cover or securely covered with plastic wrap and a layer of foil. I would place them immediately in the freezer (up to 3 months). When ready to bake, either thaw in the refrigerator or remove the covers and re-cover with foil. Place the frozen shells in oven at 375℉ for 35 minutes. Check shells and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes (or more). Once the shells are soft and marinara sauce is bubbling, remove the foil, sprinkle with vegan parmesan and bread crumbs. Continue baking (uncovered) until cheese & breadcrumbs are lightly browned (approx. 10 minutes). Please let me know if you give it a try. I'd love to hear any suggestions you might add.
Thank Connie - I will report back! 😁
Sorry for the late reply but these froze great for me! I made two batches and put one in a foil baking dish and did exactly what you stated above (froze before cooking) Then I pulled it out, covered it with foil and baked from frozen. Poof - I had a yummy dinner 😉 Thank You!! Jody
Connie Edwards McGaughy
Hi Jody, Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I'm happy to hear both batches turned out well!
I made these on Christmas Day and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were. Even my non-vegan friends were amazed. Wish I had taken a photo before dinner because there was no leftovers to photograph.
Connie Edwards McGaughy
Lisa - what a great idea to make the shells for Christmas! They really are a crowd pleaser. Thanks so much for sharing your experience & the 5-star rating! 💚🥕
Love this recipe! I made a pan of these stuffed shells for a small group of friends, mostly non-vegans. Everyone devoured them and couldn't believe they were made with non-dairy cheese. I'm definitely making this again!
Hi. This recipe is delicious!!! . i want to thank you for helping me to prepare a easy, quick and delicious meal. My husband loved it and i can't wait until my daugther tries it. I didnt find the ricotta cheese but i substituted mozarella and it came out great.
Connie Edwards McGaughy
Thank you Carmen! I'm delighted you and your husband enjoyed the recipe!💚🥕
Looks delish--but need to find Gluten free pasta shells
Connie Edwards McGaughy
Here you go Karen . . . gluten-free pasta shells! I'm adding them to the recipe post. I haven't tried them myself but I'd love to hear if you decide to. Did I earn an extra star for that? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Connie Edwards McGaughy
This recipe is a crowd pleaser and one of my favorites to serve to vegans and non-vegans alike. So delicious and super satisfying, no one is going to go home hungry. .