Purchase without a purpose
Each time I’ve opened my refrigerator over the past few weeks I’ve come face to face with an unopened package of tofu. Each time I saw that package, it was as if the tofu were taunting me, knowing that before long, it would pass its expiration date. That’s what I get when I purchase without a purpose.
Ready for prime time
Not wanting to let the tofu slide by without being put to good use, I blended it up and used it as a filling to make Swiss chard and tofu stuffed shells. I’ve never used tofu in place of cheese before, and thought this was as good a time as any to try. Even as a cheese lover, I wasn’t skeptical of the results, and I had Swiss chard and pine nuts on hand and figured those would be excellent ingredients to add to the mix.
The blended tofu was basically the same consistency as a ricotta cheese and egg mixture used for standard stuffed shells recipes. I was confident that dropping the dairy from this dish wouldn’t be a big deal.
Take it from a cheese lover
If you love your cheese and feel like Swiss chard and tofu stuffed shells wouldn’t be quite right without it, you’d be wrong. But if you don’t believe me, go ahead and add some grated Parmesan over the tops of the shells during the final minutes of cooking. It’ll brown up nicely and add a touch of saltiness to your first few bites. If you use the right ingredients, this makes a great vegan dish. If you’re a Swiss chard fan, check out my recipe for Italian Potato Salad with Swiss Chard.
Recipe for Swiss Chard and Tofu Stuffed Shells
- 20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
- 1 cup pasta sauce, more or less, to taste
- 16 ounces tofu, drained, and pressed for about 20 minutes
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 4 large leaves of Swiss chard, blanched and torn, stems cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus one tablespoon
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs, divided
- Aluminum foil
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the pasta shells according to package directions, then drain them and place on a baking sheet or dish so they don’t touch each other.
- While the pasta shells cook, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until they become translucent. Add the garlic, and turn off the heat.
- Blanch the Swiss chard in boiling water, just for a few minutes or until the leaves turn bright green. Drain, and submerge in cold water. Drain again, and squeeze out any remaining moisture.
- Add the pressed tofu to a food processor along with the 3 tablespoons olive oil, Swiss chard, onions and garlic. Blend until smooth.
- Place the tofu mixture in a large bowl and season with 4 tablespoons of bread crumbs, the salt, black pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Mix to combine. Add the pine nuts and mix again.
- Spoon about 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce across the bottom of a small baking dish.
- Spoon the tofu mixture into each of the shells until full. Place the filled shells in the baking dish so they are snug against each other.
- Spoon the tomato sauce over the shells and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and sprinkle the tops of the shells with 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs and a few pine nuts. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 10 minutes or until the breadcrumbs turn golden.