creamy-mushroom stuffed pasta shells.

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Stuffed pasta has always been a favorite dish of mine – easy to make and presents really nicely at dinner parties. My pre-vegan filling consisted of solely ricotta cheese, plus a bit of spinach and garlic, so it has taken me a fair amount of time to come up with a suitable plant-based substitute. I always thought of this dish as being “fancy comfort food”; so it is that much more comforting to now know that my recipe is not just nutritious, but also cruelty free and sustainable.

I decided to create a creamy mushroom filling, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love mushrooms? I combined these with a sauce consisting of tahini, soy milk and flour (plus herbs/spices/etc). Since tahini is the base ingredient in the filling, it is imperative that you use hulled tahini. The term “hulled” refers to the outer shell of the sesame seed being removed, which results in a far creamier and less bitter product – imperative for this recipe. The calcium and fibre content is less in comparison to “unhulled”, though your taste buds will thank-you come dinner time. A full fat, unsweetened, good quality soy milk, also adds to the smooth texture, so I definitely recommend purchasing brands such as Bonsoy to make this as creamy as possible.

nutritional breakdown.

Mushrooms – these babies are packed with vitamins and minerals, plus have a wonderfully low-calorie content  of just 21 cal/cup. Furthermore, they are a great source of copper, which assists with collagen production (a protein that prevents bones from becoming brittle); as well as phosphorus, which contributes to the formation of inorganic mineral tissues that provide bone density. A single cup of whole white mushrooms will provide approximately 34% of you copper RDI and 11% of your phosphorus RDI.

Tahini – this paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is a rich source of calcium, 2 tablespoons providing approximately 12% of your RDI. It is also a great source of unsaturated fat which is essential for cardiac health, thiamine (vitamin B1) which plays an important role in maintaining a health nervous system and phytosterols which aid in lowering cholesterol levels.

Nutritional Yeast – this is a complete protein, which means that 9 out of the 18 amino acids it contains cannot be produced by the body. It is a great source of B vitamins that assist with red blood cell production, with just half a teaspoon providing anywhere between 30% and 100% of your RDI (brand dependant). Nutritional yeast is also often fortified with vitamin B-12, a vitamin that is only found in animal sourced products (i.e. eggs, red meat, fish, etc). Vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role in the metabolism of fatty acids, which assist in increasing the speed of electrical impulses between nerve cells, due to the formation of a protective myelin sheath. A lack of B-12, and hence myelin, can result in a range of neurological and/or neuromuscular disorders.

Packed with nutrients and a taste that hits the spot, I encourage you to give this a go at your next dinner party. I guarantee it to be a crowd pleaser.

This recipe makes eight serves (two shells per person).


ingredients.

  • 16 large pasta shells – plus extra to allow for breakages
  • 3 – 4 cups button mushrooms
  • 1 cup hulled tahini
  • 1 cup full fat soy milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 6-8 minced garlic cloves
  • 2tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 3tsp ground oregano
  • 3tsp dried rosemary
  • 2tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup plain / corn flour
  • 2 cans crushed / diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 small red onions

method.

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees celsius (fan forced).
  2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook pasta shells to packet instructions. These take far longer to cook than standard pasta so don’t be alarmed if they need to be om the stove for an extended period of time. Gently stir pasta periodically to prevent sticking to the bottom, but not so much that the shells break apart.
  3. Dice the red onion and chop the mushrooms into quarters. Place both in separate pans on low-medium heat until cooked through. Set aside.
  4. In a blender, blitz the tahini, soy milk, maple syrup, garlic and salt, plus 1tsp of oregano and rosemary. After these are well combined, add the flour and nutritional yeast and blitz again until a thicker consistency is formed. Set aside.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, cooked onion and remaining rosemary and oregano to a pot and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can intensify the taste of this sauce with a stock, though I usually only do this when preparing soups.
  6. Add the cooked mushrooms and the creamy filling to a mixing bowl and gently stir through with a spatula. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it very carefully and fill them with the fore mentioned mixture.
  7. Pour the tomato sauce into an oven proof ceramic dish/tray, then arange the 16 pasta shells on top. Bake in the oven covered  for approximately 15 minutes (depending on your oven), then uncovered for a further 5-10.
  8. Serve with some green veggies – I love this dish with grilled asparagus – and some fresh basil leaves to garnish.

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