I hope you’re all having a great start to your week! Three years ago, I went dairy free because it did not agree with my stomach. Since then, I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet. I had hoped to find a tasty vegan cheese option to substitute the delicious dairy products I was missing out on, but that was not an easy task.
I tasted all kinds of vegan cheeses, many of which smelled extremely funky and didn’t taste very pleasant either. After coming to the realization that store bought vegan cheeses are not my thing, I decided to try out a few homemade versions. Originally, I made a cashew-based cheese sauce, which was extremely tasty, but I ended up with a stomach ache and feeling a bit nauseous. After much testing, I finally discovered the awesomeness of a tofu-based vegan cheese, and I’ve been hooked on it every since! Even my family (who do eat dairy) tremendously enjoy my homemade “cheese”. My mom is obsessed with it!
The vegan based “Ricotta” cheese filling that I’m using in this Manicotti recipe today, is one that closely mimics the flavor and texture of actual cheese! Its texture is similar to a Ricotta cheese, and the flavor is excellent, without the icky aftertaste or weird smells that come along with the store bought kind. I am extremely proud and excited to share this recipe!
The vegan cheese filling is adapted from the Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking cookbook, which has tons of ridiculously delicious healthy and vegan recipes. If you are in search for healthier, yet delicious recipes, I strongly advise you to head to the Minimalist Baker blog for loads of inspiration! Their blog helped me tremendously in learning how to make amazing vegan foods!
Watch the step by step tutorial here: http://bit.ly/2qtm38vPrint
Vegan Spinach-Cheese Manicotti Recipe – A Healthy and Delicious Dinner Idea!
- Prep Time: 45 min
- Cook Time: 50 min
- Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Yield: 5-6 servings
- Category: Pasta, Cooking
“Ricotta” Cheese Filling:
- Juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
- 12 oz extra firm tofu, drained and pressed with paper towel for ten minutes
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese (recipe in NOTES below)
- 1 flax egg (recipe in NOTES below) OR 1 real egg
- 1, 5 oz bag fresh spinach, sliced into strips
- 1, 7 oz package Jovial Gluten Free Manicotti (I buy mine at Thrive Market)
- 2 tablespoons oil (grapeseed, avocado oil, canola oil, other flavorless oil)
- 25 oz jar marinara sauce
- extra parmesan cheese for sprinkling
“Ricotta” Cheese Filling:
- Combine the lemon juice, broken up tofu block, nutritional yeast, dried oregano, freshly chopped basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and vegan Parmesan cheese in a high-speed blender.
- Blend on high speed for 30 seconds, then scrape down the blender bowl and mix the ingredient around. Blend for another 30-60 seconds, or until the mixture is well combined.
*Don’t worry if there are some clumps; that’s what you want! It will give your cheese filling a ricotta-like texture.
- Next, mix in the flax egg, and sliced spinach strips.
- Once all the ingredients are combined, transfer the filling into a piping bag or ziplock bag, and cut the corner to create a 1/2 inch piping tip.
- Set the filling piping bag aside, preheat the oven to 375℉, and prepare a 9” x 13” pan. Set aside.
Cook the Manicotti:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons oil (optional) into the water.
- Once boiling, add in the manicotti noodles and cook for exactly 4 minutes (no longer.)
- Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
Assemble The Manicotti:
- Pour half of the sauce onto the bottom prepared pan.
- Pipe the “Ricotta” Cheese Filling mixture into each Manicotti pasta tube. Then, place each cheese-filled manicotti onto the bottom of the pan.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the manicotti and spread over all the pasta noodles.
- Sprinkle the dish with a generous helping of vegan Parmesan cheese.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes.
- Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Cool the dish for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with extra vegan Parmesan cheese!
Flax Egg Recipe
2 1/2 tablespoons water + 1 tablespoon ground flax seed. Mix together and let sit for 10 minutes.
To a blender, combine 3/4 cup raw cashews, 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until the mixture resembles parmesan.