For me, there is something so relaxing about getting into the kitchen and creating a recipe. No instructions. No ingredient list. Just your pantry, your fridge, your stove, and a creative mind. My apartment kitchen is the size of a closet, but the moment I step in there to search the shelves of my pantry or the contents of my fridge…magic happens.
Very few people would consider the kitchen one of their happy places. But, for me, cooking brings me so much joy and satisfaction. And I love knowing what goes into my food, rather than simply buying something packaged or pre-made. The care and love that goes into food really can shine through in a recipe.
The other night, I was trying to come up with a dish to make for dinner that would use up some of the ingredients that have been in my refrigerator as well as taking up space in my pantry. I noticed I had some gluten-free large shells sitting in the back of the pantry on a shelf. And from there…I went to work.
At first, I wasn’t sure what would emerge when I started putting ingredients together, but what emerged was a fantastic dish, packed with flavor, and able to satisfy every gluten-free person out there who misses or has never experienced the wonder of stuffed shells. I mean…really…Italian food is simple, yet filled with flavor and textures. And sometimes, the gluten-free community really misses out because we don’t have gluten-free manicotti noodles.
But, we now have gluten-free jumbo shells…and thus…my creative kitchen juices began to flow. And below is the recipe I created:
Gluten-Free Vegan Stuffed Shells
1 box Tinkyáda Brown Rice Grand Shells
1 cup Tofutti Better Than Ricotta
4 ounces Trader Joe’s Vegan and Gluten-Free Chorizo
1 cup green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (24 ounce) jar gluten-free pasta sauce
¾ cup Daiya Mozzarella shreds
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of garlic salt
dash of garlic powder
¼ cup nutritional yeast or vegan grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook the pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain the pasta noodles and reserve. Place a sheet of wax paper large enough to hold all of the shells on a flat surface, with the pasta shells open-side up.
While the noodles cook, saute the green onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the vegan/gluten-free chorizo until warmed through, about 5 more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, parsley, basil, sage, thyme, red pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, garlic powder and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast/vegan parmesan. Fold together until all of the spices are incorporated.
Add the onions and chorizo to the bowl and fold in until completely mixed.
Carefully, spoon a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into the shells until all of them are filled.
In a 11 x 7 inch ovenproof glass casserole dish, place about ½ cup of marinara sauce and evenly spread it around until it coats the bottom of the dish. Lay the shells side-by-side, open side up, in the dish. Then, spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the top. Sprinkle the marinara coated shells with the vegan mozzarella shreds and the remaining 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast/vegan parmesan.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and allow to bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Let the dish stand for 5 minute before serving.
Of course, if you aren’t dairy-free and meat-free, like me, feel free to use any gluten-free ricotta cheese, real sausage or chorizo, and actual mozzarella and parmesan. For my dietary needs, I created this as a vegan dish…and you wouldn’t be able to tell.
My roommate is a meat eater who loves her cheese and she raved about how this tasted. And she can be quite picky.
Sometimes, when you don’t put too much thought into something, you can step into the kitchen, turn on a few appliances, grab some basic ingredients, and create a dish that is something special and something that came directly from you and your mind.
As more fresh produce comes into season as Spring approaches, I encourage all of you to purchase or grow as much as you can and then find new and exciting ways to incorporate these ingredients into your food…be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack or dessert…and in the process discover a new and exciting way to enjoy something as ordinary as an onion, a squash, or even a ripe tomato. We all have inner chefs inside of us…just waiting for the right moment and the right ingredients to cook up something extraordinary.
Karen Bradyhas been vegetarian since early 2010 and went gluten-free for medical reasons in February 2011. She is an avid runner in training for her upcoming first marathon. Other loves include cooking, traveling and writing, which she combines into her blog athttp://veggiefoodlover.wordpress.com. She resides in Southern Indiana and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.