Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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The ultimate fall comfort food, these vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed shells are cheesy, creamy, chewy, and garlicky. Made with a homemade vegan ricotta spread, pumpkin, and the best garlic béchamel sauce, you'll never put your fork down!
Prep 10 mins
Cook 1 hr 5 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
5 from 89 votes

The original title for this recipe was Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Creamy Garlic Béchamel Sauce. Once I said it aloud, I heard how ridiculous it sounded and realized I needed to work harder on coming up with succinct recipe titles.

In my defense, the original title is an incredibly accurate description of the recipe and it does sound incredibly delicious, which it is.

Regardless of the recipe name, let’s talk deets of what’s inside this recipe. This recipe is the ULTIMATE comfort food: it is cheesy, creamy, chewy, and garlicky, and is a must make during the fall/winter/holiday season!

	Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Why you’ll love these Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Fall comfort food: Giant pasta shells get stuffed in a cheesy pumpkin filling, topped with a creamy white sauce, and then baked in the oven. It’s the epitome of comfort food for cold weather and pumpkin season!

Texture, texture, texture! The contrast of the chewy baked shells with the creamy filling and sauce is so good you won’t be able to put your fork down! This is one of my favorite secret tofu recipes – most people would never suspect it’s an ingredient!

Crowd pleasing holiday dish. I have made this for two Thanksgiving dinners, one Christmas dinner, and one fall dinner party, and this dish is always a hit. It usually gets the “I can’t believe this is vegan” line, and according to many of you, the results are the exact same in your homes :)

Surprisingly easy. Despite this being a crowd pleasing and impressive dish fancy enough for the holidays, it’s actually quite easy to assemble and make. If you watch the video down below or on Youtube, you’ll be able to see that it’s really easy and doesn’t require any special cooking skills.

Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Watch! How to make Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells.

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells | brilliant vegan recipe 🍂
Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells | brilliant vegan recipe 🍂

Ingredients + Methods for this Recipe

Jumbo Pasta Shells

You can find jumbo pasta shells at many grocery stores (though not all). I’ve found them at Whole Foods, Vons, and Ralphs, as well as stores like Target and Walmart. The large shell size, in combination with the decadent filling and sauce, mean that just a few shells will satisfy your cravings!

Cook the shells in a large pot of salted boiling water until just al dente. When the shells are done cooking, drain them and toss them with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking and drying out.

Pumpkin Ricotta Filling

This filling is so tasty yet so easy to make and comes together in less than 10 minutes. It starts with my homemade vegan tofu ricotta cheese. I use a variation of this cheeze in a number of my recipes, from lasagna to savory tarts.

The tofu ricotta requires extra firm tofu, nutritional yeast, and a few dried herbs and seasonings to achieve the traditional texture of traditional ricotta. The nice thing about it is you don’t have to press the tofu – you just need to pat dry excess water before crumbling it up. The other nice thing is that the food processor does all the work for you. All you do is add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse repeatedly until slightly smooth but still a little chunky.

Traditional ricotta is fairly bland in taste, but my vegan version is so flavorful that you’ll want to eat it on its own! (many readers do just this).

Then, the tofu ricotta gets folded into a pumpkin filling, which features canned pumpkin purée, freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper, and vegan parmesan cheese for that extra cheesy goodness. The pumpkin and nutmeg bring a slightly sweet and slightly earthy flair that is irresistible! The slightly sweet yet spicy aroma of freshly grated nutmeg will truly delight your taste buds, so please don’t skip this step!

stuffed shells in pan, unbaked.

Garlic Béchamel Sauce

The final component of this delicious dish is the creamy garlic white sauce. I’ve made my fair share of plant-based white sauces, and this recipe is by far my favorite. It’s so creamy and flavorful that you can eat it by the spoon. You know a dish is going to be amazing when you can eat two of the components by the spoon.

Start off by cooking some onions in extra virgin olive oil until nicely softened and lightly browned, then add the garlic until very fragrant. The cooked onions and garlic are what take this sauce from an ordinary Béchamel sauce to an extremely flavorful, garlicky Béchamel sauce. After they are done cooking, you’ll add all-purpose flour and stir to incorporate, similar to making a roux.

And then to make this white sauce super creamy without using dairy-based milk or cream, I use canned “lite” coconut milk. It’s creamy enough to make this sauce luxurious and decadent, but light enough that the sauce won’t turn out too heavy or thick. The flour will help thicken the sauce very quickly, and it should take just 2 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a blender, add salt and pepper, and blend until smooth and creamy! Keep in mind that if you taste this sauce before blending, it will taste quite coconutty. But, once you add the salt and pepper and blend it up in a blender until creamy, I promise it loses that coconut taste!

unbaked stuffed shells in pan.

To assemble the dish, pour about 1/2 cup of the Béchamel sauce onto the bottom of a 13×9-inch (33×23 cm) rectangular pan (a 3 liter pan).

Stuff 1 to 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin ricotta filling into each jumbo shell. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Then drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the shells. Finally, scatter some chopped sage leaves on top for that earthy, woodsy perfect-for-fall flavor!

Bake in the oven at 350°F (or 175°C) for 25 minutes until the shells are lightly golden!

Tips for Making Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Cook the pasta in well-salted boiling water until just al dente. I always recommend cooking pasta in well-salted water because that’s what will bring some flavor to the pasta. Obviously, the filling and sauce will have lots of flavor, but you want every little bite to be well seasoned, even the parts of the pasta that don’t have filling.

Also, don’t cook the shells past the al dente stage – they should still have a bit of bite to them. Since the stuffed shells will get baked in the oven for a bit, you definitely don’t want them to be too soft, or else the end dish could be a bit mushy.

Use freshly grated nutmeg. I know I sound like a bougie food snob channeling her inner Ina Garten when I say this, but freshly grated nutmeg really does make a big difference and adds so much more depth and intensity of flavor compared to pre-ground nutmeg. Plus, fresh nutmeg pods have an excellent shelf life when stored properly, about 3-4 years, so it’s an inexpensive purchase compared to ground nutmeg, which will lose its potency much quicker.

The key to the Garlic Béchamel sauce is allowing the onions to cook down in the olive oil until softened and lightly browned. It adds so much rich flavor and notes of umami.

Don’t overbake the stuffed shells. The shells will start to dry out if they’re baked too long, so keep an eye on them and use an oven thermometer if you have one!

For serving options, since this dish is so creamy and indulgent, I prefer to serve it as a side dish as opposed to a main course. But, it’s also so delicious that many people prefer it as a main dish. However you serve it, I guarantee that your guests will never know it’s vegan and/or will be very pleased.

Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

How to make this recipe ahead of time

You can make the tofu ricotta several days in advance, and the pumpkin ricotta filling 1-2 days in advance. You can also make the garlic Béchamel sauce several days in advance.

Then, on the day of serving, you can (1) cook the shells, (2) stuff the shells with the pumpkin ricotta filling, and (3) bake the dish.

To reduce cooking time on the day of, you can even stuff the shells, arrange them in the baking pan, and store covered in the fridge for up to one day. Then, bring to room temperature before baking in the oven for 25 minutes.

pumpkin shells on plate.

How to make homemade pumpkin puree

If you can’t find canned pumpkin puree, you can make your own pumpkin puree using fresh pumpkin!

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cut the pumpkin in half, from stem to end, using a rocking motion as you rotate the pumpkin. You’ll need a very sharp large knife. If it’s still too difficult to cut, pop the whole pumpkin in the microwave for 1 minute. Try again, and if you’re still not able to cut it, microwave for another 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. When you’ve sliced the pumpkin, pull the halves apart – they should separate at the stem. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and as much of the stringy bits you can.
  5. Lightly sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt. Place the pumpkin halves, cut side down, on the lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake pumpkin until the flesh is tender and the skin is pulling away from the flesh, 40-45 minutes (dependent on size).
  7. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a food processor and blend until very smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 5 to 7 days, or you can freeze it for several months.

If you give this Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!

Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

5 from 89 votes
The ultimate fall comfort food, these vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed shells are cheesy, creamy, chewy, and garlicky. Made with a homemade vegan ricotta spread, pumpkin, and the best garlic béchamel sauce, you'll never put your fork down!
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian-Inspired, New American
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 8

Ingredients

  • 26 to 30 jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Tofu Ricotta (recipe below)
  • 1 cup (240-250g) canned pumpkin purée*
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (50-60g) vegan parmesan cheese* (optional but recommended)
  • Garlic Béchamel Sauce (recipe below)
  • 15 fresh sage leaves, sliced or torn up

Tofu Ricotta

  • 1 (14-ounce/400g) block of extra-firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup (20g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium lemon, (zested and 1 tablespoon juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Garlic Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (13.5 ounce/400 mL) can “lite” coconut milk**, can shaken or stirred well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta shells. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and generously salt the water. Add the jumbo pasta shells and cook according to the box instructions until just al dente (do not overcook!), then drain well.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta shells to a baking sheet and drizzle with the 1 tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 175°C).
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare the Tofu Ricotta. Drain the block of tofu and dab away the excess water with some paper towels. Place the tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and crushed red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse repeatedly until the texture is relatively smooth but still a little chunky, similar to the texture of ricotta cheese.
  • Make the pumpkin ricotta filling. In a large bowl, combine the Tofu Ricotta, pumpkin purée, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper to taste, and vegan parmesan cheese (if using). Fold the ingredients together using a silicone spatula. Taste the filling and adjust the seasonings accordingly, adding more salt, pepper, or nutmeg as needed. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the filling into each jumbo pasta shell, and set aside.
  • Make the Garlic Béchamel Sauce. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add onion and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until the onion is softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour, whisking constantly for a minute until well incorporated. Gradually pour in the lite coconut milk in stages, whisking after each addition to prevent clumps, and then cook for 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  • Blend the sauce. Transfer the sauce to a blender and add the 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce for seasonings, adding more salt or pepper as desired.
  • Assemble the dish. Pour 1/2 cup of the Garlic Béchamel Sauce in the prepared baking dish (enough for a thin layer on the bottom of the pan). Arrange the stuffed jumbo shells on top of the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the shells. Scatter the chopped fresh sage leaves on top of the sauce. Bake the stuffed shells for 22-25 minutes, or until the pasta shells are lightly golden. Serve warm.

Notes

* You can use canned pumpkin puree or make your own; see blog post on “how to make homemade pumpkin puree” for instructions. 
** The vegan parmesan cheeses I’ve used are Follow Your Heart shredded parmesan and Violife vegan parmesan wedge.
*** To make your own “lite” coconut milk, mix together 1 part full-fat canned coconut milk with 2 parts water, stir together until well combined. Then measure out 13.5 ounces (400 mL).

Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 575mg | Potassium: 283mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 4770IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

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178 comments on Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  1. Carla

    5 stars
    This was absolutely amazing my kids didn’t even know it was vegan!!!! This is the quintessential fall comfort food. The only changes I made were I could not find large pasta shells so I made small lasagna rolls. Also for the béchamel sauce I used oat milk…. specifically Chobani extra creamy oat milk which I now use in all my vegan cream based sauces for a neutral flavor. Thank you so much for this recipe !!!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Carla! We’re delighted to hear the recipe was a success :)

  2. Lyndsay Barwell

    4 stars
    I was skeptical when making it, it’s a fair bit of work, but it turned out nice and creamy. 4 stars because I’m not sure about the béchemel sauce. It seemed quite onion-y. Maybe less onion and oat milk instead of coconut. First time I’ve made a vegan version

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Good to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Lyndsay! We hope you can try making the recipe again to better suit your preferences. Cheers!

  3. Joanna

    I really like the dish, but I couldn’t taste the pumpkin at all. If I add more will it affect the texture too much?

  4. Sabrina

    5 stars
    Nisha I just made this and it’s so filling and yummy. I truly loved the nutmeg/ sage combo! I couldn’t find jumbo shells in a store, so I googled jumbo pasta shells and found some grocery stores that delivered it same day :). Thanks again.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Sabrina. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  5. LIly

    Could I use unsweetened oat or soy milk instead of coconut? Thanks in advance.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi there, you could use unsweetened full fat oat milk or thinned out cashew cream instead. We hope you get the chance to try the pasta!

  6. Katelynne

    5 stars
    I am not vegan but let me tell you this dish is phenomenal. Instead of pumpkin I used Kabocha squash, and instead of jumbo shells I sliced zucchini with a mandolin to make little raviolis and it came out amazing! I also blitzed some toasted walnuts and mushrooms to fold into the filling for texture and although it was good, it didn’t really need it. This recipe is perfect as is. Thank you again, you are so creative!

    1. Katelynne

      5 stars
      Forgot to add that this was even better as leftovers in my opinion. The sauce is to die for and is so good on garlic toast.

    2. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Katelynne, So glad to hear you loved this recipe! The raviolis sound delightful!

  7. karen

    4 stars
    The filling is so creamy and delicious! Though the bechemel still turned out with a coconut milk flavor that kind of throws it off.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Karen. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  8. Nai

    5 stars
    I am not a big fan of tofu and I wasn’t sure what to expect with a coconut bechamel, but you seemed to enjoy the taste so much that you sold me …lol. This recipe did not disappoint. So flavorful. I don’t usually have fresh herbs, so I added ground sage to the sauce and it was delicious 😋 Thanks so much.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Nai!

  9. Valerie Huffman

    5 stars
    I discovered Rainbow Plant Life a few months ago and have tried at least 7 different recipes, all were big wins!! For this recipe I didn’t want to fiddle around with shells so I just used lasagne pasta (which I already had in my pantry) to make it quicker. Instead of the pumpkin I used Kuri squash which I had already prebaked and stored in the freezer. The tofu ricotta is amazingly decadent, I’m sure a non vegan wouldn’t suspect it was dairy free. My plan for this afternoon is to make 2 more lasagnes and freeze in portions for quick grab work week lunches.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Valerie!

  10. Casey

    5 stars
    Hey Nisha,

    I made this before and it was fantastic, but the store was out of jumbo shells, so I’m doing this as a lasagna for date night. Any tips on converting it? I figure just layering the ingredients will work just fine, but I wouldn’t mind hearing from the expert. Thanks!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      From Nisha: “Hi Casey, sorry we might have missed date night! The only useful tip I can think of is to make sure you use cooked lasagna noodles, not the “no-boil” noodles. Since there’s not enough liquid-y sauce to cook the noodles. Also, since I haven’t tried this lasagna myself, I’m not sure how much filling it would make, but I suspect less than a 13×9” pan. I’d say a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet would work really well for the amount of filling, or a square baking pan.”

  11. Arvind

    5 stars
    We tried the recipe today and it was so yummy! Everyone was praising it through the entire dinner! This was our first recipe – can’t wait to try more! We are not vegan – but the ricotta recipe was too good! Can’t wait to try other recipes now.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Arvind. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  12. Sarah

    I was a little skeptical about a savory pumpkin dish, but I’m always trying to find easy ways to eat more tofu. These shells were so good!
    I used oat flour instead of all-purpose flour, and I committed the cardinal sin of using pre-ground nutmeg. It still turned out great, but I can’t wait to make it with fresh nutmeg.
    I’m so glad I tried it. Thank you Nisha!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  13. Halle Bodnarchuk

    Will using soft tofu instead of firm tofu affect the tofu ricotta?

    Haven’t tried this recipe however love your content!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Halle, soft tofu’s water content is far too high for this recipe, which calls for an extra firm tofu block. Sorry :(

  14. Nina

    5 stars
    Easy to follow recipe. Although dish uses humble ingredients it’s packed with tons of flavor. Definitely a party for the tastebuds while making one feel fancy – eating a meal including bechamel sauce :-).

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Nina!

  15. Gena Odland

    5 stars
    This was the star of our Christmas dinner! It was so delicious and so elegant. We served it with roasted asparagus spears and a lightly dressed fresh greens salad. My guests enjoyed it way more that the typical meat based Christmas dinner. It’s definitely going to be a new holiday tradition. Thank you for the beautiful recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sounds like an incredible Christmas dinner, Gena! Thank you so much for sharing :)

  16. Mary

    5 stars
    We just made these for Christmas and they were absolutely delicious! Thanks for a great and unique recipe :).

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Mary!

  17. Alicia

    These were so delicious, and I can’t wait to finish the leftovers today! The filling and the garlic bechamel sauce both blew me away. Somehow, every store near me was out of jumbo shells, so I used manicotti, and they turned out great! I loved the addition of the crushed red pepper flakes, but some people in my family said that the filling was a little too spicy for them. Great recipe, Nisha!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Alicia! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  18. Valerie R Corey

    I could not find GF shells so used GF lasagna, cooked to al dente, spread the filling thickly, rolled them up and covered with sauce. The sauce was too strong with garlic and onion. Maybe the blending released too much of those flavors. No one liked it so I made a new sauce with much less seasonings, added pumpkin puree, a hint of nutmeg and it was a hit. Still a work in progress but was very tasty.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sorry to hear the sauce wasn’t a hit, Valerie. We are glad you were able to fix the sauce to your liking otherwise!

  19. Love

    5 stars
    Nisha,
    This recipe was a hit even with plant based skeptics in the room!
    We all were throughly nourished!
    Note: I used red onions instead of white/yellow and it worked out just fine!

    Thank you for your consistently hit recipes!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback!

  20. Pearl Kaur

    5 stars
    I really want to make this recipe for christmas dinner but having a hard time finding jumbo shells.
    Is there an alternative way to make it?
    I saw someone mention lasagne but do I need to add the stuffing and sauce into each layer, or leave the sauce for top layer only?

    I love all recipes from Rainbow Plant life! They have quite literally changed my relationship with food :)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Pearl, yes you can make this into a lasagna but it would require layering the ricotta. Other readers have also had luck using lasagna sheets and making lasagna roll-ups!

      We are so happy you love our recipes, thanks for following!

    2. Love

      I’ve made this recipe with lentil pasta for a wholesome alternative and I just layered the noodles with the tofu ‘ricotta’ and the sauce; Didn’t stuff anything (think similar to lasagne).
      I’ve made it with the jumbo shells too and I found the taste was NOT compromised either way.
      Hope this helps:)

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