Vegan stuffed manicotti is one of my favorite comfort foods. The fluffy tofu ricotta just melts in your mouth! While stuffing manicotti might seem like a lot of time and work manicotti is actually much easier to fill than the big pasta shells are and they are also less likely to fall apart. I covered my little tofu pillows in a quick homemade marinara before baking but you could sub for jarred pasta sauce to save even more time. Also added some tofu sausage and fresh basil to top off the manicotti. It’s a great meal for when you are having company but don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Tofu ricotta is the easiest thing to make. Ever.
The secret to good tofu ricotta is using a medium firmness tofu. Usually people will use firm tofu for ricotta but firm is too firm! The texture will be all wrong, especially in baked situations like lasagna or this stuffed manicotti, where firm tofu will thicken up too much. Medium tofu will have a silky soft texture like traditional ricotta. You just need to make sure that you get as much water as possible out of the tofu. I drain my tofu in a metal mesh wire colander over the sink. I put a bowl that covers the circumference of the colander well and press the crap out of the tofu. Then I let it sit for awhile and press again. And again. And again. It takes about half an hour but you need to get that moisture removed otherwise you’ll have a mushy mess and you will think I’m lying about the wonders of medium tofu. You can make the tofu in advance and refrigerate until needed.
Don’t use a food processor to break up the tofu because it will process the tofu too finely and then it will get mushy. Instead mash the tofu the old fashioned way. With a fork! Add in the rest of the ingredients while mashing. Nutritional yeast, lemon juice, a little bit of garlic and salt provide most of the flavor. I added a a lot of herbs to this batch of tofu ricotta since they are going to be the primary manicotti filling. If you are using vegan ricotta in a dish mostly for texture and with a lot of other flavors then you could ease up or drop the herbs. I’m really partial to the herbed tofu ricotta though because it truly elevates vegan stuffed manicotti. You want that extra flavor.
After your herbed tofu ricotta is ready to go you can start on the fun part of filling the manicotti. Don’t over boil the manicotti or they will be hard to stuff because the pasta will break apart. After draining and while stuffing give the pasta a good shake to prevent sticking. This is key if you aren’t using oil in your pasta to help with the stickiness. I don’t mind the extra shake or two.
I made my own very fast marinara sauce with a large can of crushed tomato and a small can of tomato sauce, along with garlic and herbs, that was given a quick simmer. If you will be substituting for jarred marinara sauce you will want around 32 oz of sauce, so maybe a jar and a small can of tomato sauce. I spooned half of the sauce onto the bottom of a large baking dish. Then I began filling the manicotti with the herbed tofu mixture. You will end up with 10 moderately stuffed manicotti. I say moderately because I felt like it was the perfect amount of filling but growing up my family used to stuff the heck of out anything “stuffed”. Overstuff, really. The filling would be falling out anywhere and it was impossible to serve or eat. That’s not a bad problem but I have a even hand and I’d rather save myself the trouble when trying to dish up the pasta. These are properly filled manicotti.
After filling and arranging the manicotti I crumbled up one link of Italian style tofu sausage and about 1/4 cup fresh torn basil and topped the pasta with both. Then I poured the remaining half of the marinara sauce over and sprinkled about 1/4 cup vegan cheese shreds on the very top. You could absolutely skip the cheese shreds and not miss them one bit. I had some to use up so I went for it. Once everything is assembled, cover with aluminum foil and throw your manicotti into the oven. Then my favorite part! Go do other things for 45 minutes. I had a glass of wine and gave my kitchen a good cleaning.
Once the wait is over you need to let the vegan stuffed manicotti sit for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up. Then serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. I ate 4 manicotti, one more than is pictured here. It was so good that I had to have one more!
Impressively my boyfriend ate 6 of these bad boys. Every time I make this herbed tofu ricotta it goes over well with him. Plus tofu ricotta is great because it’s low in fat AND high in protein so hey, go ahead and have 6 because they are really quite healthy. The tofu sausage added a little extra texture so I would recommend it but you could substitute for zucchini or eggplant if you prefer. The basil was fantastic! Fresh herbs always do it. Hope you love this vegan stuffed manicotti as much as we did!