This post is sponsored by House Foods
Every Christmas Eve, my family piles into my grandmother’s sweet little home in Boston, and we have ourselves a merry eat-a-thon. It’s an Italian feast of meatballs, eggplant parm, and when we’re lucky, stuffed shells. We eat to our hearts content and once we’re sufficiently stuffed and I’ve stained my shirt, we summon the courage to attack the dessert buffet. We’re very courageous people.
Stuffed shells is just the kind of thing I’d find at my grandmother’s on Christmas Eve. It’s cheesy, rich, and comforting. It even freezes beautifully if you want to make it ahead of time and reheat—perfect for holidays and just about every weeknight.
So…what’s the difference between this recipe and the original? Mine has about half the calories and is higher in protein, which could potentially leave me feeling better when it comes time to eat that third piece of homemade fudge.
The secret ingredient to making them lighter, while keeping all the cheesy, basil-rich flavor of the traditional version, is something you’d never expect: Tofu. If you’re skeptical, I’ve been there. I wasn’t so sure about this one, but using tofu in place of ricotta cheese is actually pretty fabulous, because ricotta is so mild that you can’t really detect the flavor in a recipe like stuffed shells or lasagna; it’s the basil, oregano, garlic, and other cheeses, like mozzarella and Parmesan, that deliver on taste. More than anything, ricotta is there for the texture.
But using House Foods extra-firm tofu can mimic that creamy texture flawlessly. A few quick pulses in the food processor and the tofu transforms into a smooth puree—a virtually flavorless cream that takes on the flavors added to it. Flavors like basil, oregano, garlic, and Parmesan give this lightened up filling all the same lovable qualities you’re used to. And of course there’s a heaping helping of shredded mozzarella inside that just melts right in and amps up the richness, and a sprinkling on top, too. Stuffed shells just wouldn’t be as cozy without blanket of melted cheese.
This lightened up version has only 282 calories per 3 shells and is so good you might ditch the ricotta forever. No one will guess that tofu is in there, either, so don’t worry about picky eaters. Make it, sit back, and feel great knowing you made a meal that only tastes indulgent.
Easy Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 1 12- ounce package House Foods Premium Extra Firm Tofu
- 1 ¼ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 6 ounces
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 18 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
- Fresh basil finely chopped, for serving
- Remove the tofu from the package and dry it well with paper towels, pressing out as much moisture as you can.
- In a food processor, add the tofu and pulse until smooth. Transfer the tofu to a large bowl and add ¾ cup mozzarella, the Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate while you boil the pasta shells according to package instructions. Drain the shells and toss them with the oil to prevent them from sticking together.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Remove the tofu and cheese filling from the fridge and spoon 2 tablespoons of filling into each shell, arranging them in the baking dish side-by-side. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella. Bake for 25 minutes, until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, if desired, and serve.