Stuffed Shells with Chunky Veggie Sauce & Italian Cashew Cream {Dairy Free}

stuffed shells

Hello Utah! Remember how I surprised at least 7 people by planning a quick trip this weekend?!

My dad called me earlier last week to plan it all out. Some family was getting together for an early Thanksgiving and I decided to come along.

For the first time I left all 3 of my kiddos with their dad and flew out for the weekend. I knew they were going to have a blast having “dad time.” (Think library book sales, birthday parties, Target trips, Home Depot, documenting a wetlands adventure through notes and pictures, making forts, decorating the floor with masking tape, and having grilled cheese sandwiches).

stuffed shells

My airplane ride was peaceful and I got to read the whole hour and a half totally uninterrupted. By the end of the trip I finished the book Wonder (my favorite line was “be kinder than is necessary” – I totally recommend the read) and began the book Beautiful Ruins. My dad met me on the other end and we began our “surprising” journey. I couldn’t believe how jittery I got before each time!

My mom was first. I walked in and she stood their speechless and then started crying. My grandma was there too. And then I sent a text to my aunt that I had shown up as well. (3 surprises down) Then we went to our grad school friends’ house. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen them and between that and them having some other rough family times, it was a teary and fun surprise there. Moving on to Provo, I knocked on my sister’s door and she just started screaming! Just a tad excited. :) It was so fun!

stuffed shells

The weekend was easy and relaxing. We shopped, ate, visited, played games, and thoroughly enjoyed being together. My aunt Kalina who taught me how to make Baba Ghanoush (think hummus but with eggplant instead of chickpeas) was there and made turnip, leek, sweet potato mash with shredded parmesan on it. Don’t think mashed potatoes and you’ll enjoy this new gem of a creation! And she made some more Baba Ghanoush too, because what Thanksgiving meal is complete without it!?

And while we were all in the kitchen prepping and cooking, I kept talking about THIS recipe. If you like the Enchiladas with Cashew Creme (which we have on a regular basis around here), you’re going to love this one. And if you haven’t made those Enchiladas, you’re missing out!

This is a favorite go-to right now. I’ve taken it for potlucks, as a meal for a family with a new baby, and served while hosting. It has simple ingredients combined in an awesome and surprising way. I’ve been asked many times for the recipe.

These are amazing freshly made or reheated the next day.

Kids love them and adults love them.

The cashew cream is flavored with Italian spices that compliments the chunky sauce.

Really, it’s amazing.

I’ve even experimented with putting Baba Ghanoush as a filling in place of the cashew cream. I thought it went well. I still think I prefer the cashews, but if you’re looking for a nut free version, that would definitely be your solution.

I know you’re going to like this one.

stuffed shells

Stuffed Shells with Chunky Veggie Sauce & Italian Cashew Cream


  • Large shell pasta - 1 box will make more than can fit in 9x13
  • Chunky Sauce:
  • 2 carrots, quartered and diced
  • 1 zucchini, quartered and diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cans petite diced tomatoes
  • Italian seasonings mix and/or fresh or dried basil, oregano, and parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cashew Cream:
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Italian seasonings
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook shell pasta according to box instructions. When done cooking, drain and separate each shell before they cool together. They will stick if not separated. Handle gently so they don't get smashed and unusable to stuff. I often lay them out on plates or on a plastic wrapped counter.
  3. Saute carrots, zucchini, peppers, onion, and garlic until tender. Add spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste and heat through.
  4. Soak cashews in warm water for about 10 minutes (not totally necessary, but helps them cream easier), drain, then add to food processor. Add garlic, lemon juice, Italian seasonings, salt, and pepper to the mixer as well. Process and taste test. Add more seasonings if needed. You want this mixture to be creamy and taste Italian.
  5. Using a 9x13 pan, spread about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the ungreased pan. Fill a pasta shell with about a tablespoon of cashew cream. I eyeball this with a small cereal spoon. Then scooping with a larger spoon, spoon in some of the chunky sauce to the top of the shell. Place in the pan and repeat with all other shells. Then put in the oven for about 20 minutes. The sauce should be hot through and the tops of the shell just barely looking cooked.
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6 thoughts on “Stuffed Shells with Chunky Veggie Sauce & Italian Cashew Cream {Dairy Free}

    • You would, Sara! Maybe to translate this to a paleo diet, make Italian chicken with the chunky sauce on top and the cashew cream dolloped on top. Or the opposite – cashew cream spread on chicken with chunky sauce on top of that.

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