Vegan Italian Parmesan Mac and Cheese! Mac and cheese just put on its fancy pants with this show-stopping Italian flavor-packed pasta casserole.
Rich, “cheesy,” and oh-so-satisfying, this healthy, oil-free Vegan Italian Parmesan Mac and Cheese brimming with sophisticated flavors, tender pasta, and crispy topping. A fun, vegan twist on classic comfort food that will totally wow your family.
Whole Food Plant Based, Vegan, plant based, oil free, refined sugar free, no highly processed ingredients and gluten free.
Hi there, Ameera here!
Vegan Italian Parmesan Mac and Cheese will surely be a new family favorite. Creamy, “cheesy,” and loaded with tons of flavor; we ate it all up in a flash! Total comfort food, it’s hearty enough to serve as a main dish, but it can also be served as a side dish. This is going straight to the top 10 of my favorites.
I’m one of those mac and “cheese” lovers that enjoys all forms of mac and “cheese:” stovetop, oven-baked, extra-saucy, thick and sliceable; you name it – I love it.
This swoon-worthy mac and cheese is thick and sliceable. If you love an extra cream/saucy mac, then I highly recommend reducing the pasta amount.
Tips for Success:
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture: Make the Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture first, then use this Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture in the sauce and for the topping as well.
- Blender Sauce: The sauce for this mac and cheese is a blender sauce. The heat from the microwaved cauliflower allows the other sauce ingredients to melt into the sauce as it purees. Initially the sauce may taste slightly overly zippy; however, keep in mind that it needs to cover the pasta which then mellows out the flavor a tad.
- Order for Blending/Making the Sauce: Make the Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture first in the high-speed blender, but make sure you remove all of it from the blender before adding the cauliflower and all the Sauce Ingredients. While it would seem to make sense to just remove the 1 Tablespoon of Parmesan Cheese for the Topping and leave the remaining Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture in the blender – do NOT do this. We tried that and the Parmesan Cheese gets stuck on the bottom of the blender and makes it more difficult to blend. We recommend adding the cauliflower into the high-speed blender, then add the liquids, then add all the remaining Sauce Ingredients, finally ending with the Vegan Cheese Parmesan Mixture on top in that order to the high-speed blender. When blending, you may need to scrape down the sides and move things around with a spatula a few times to get things moving.
- Sauce Spice/Herbs: Do not add the Sauce Spice/Herb Ingredients to the high-speed blender until the very end after everything has been perfectly blended. You don’t want the herbs broken up by the high-speed blender. Sometimes a high-speed blender can over-process herbs and make them bitter. We recommend adding them at the very end with a few pulses just to incorporate them. Note: Onion powder, garlic powder, dried minced onions, and sea salt are not adversely impacted by a high-speed blender.
- Cashews and Almonds: Do NOT soak the cashews or almonds or it will create a mushy Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture. Most high-speed blenders will break down the nuts into a sprinkle type texture, which is what you are looking for.
- Sauciness: You can control the sauce to macaroni ratio by simply using less macaroni if you want a little more sauciness. We used approximately 10 oz. of elbow macaroni. If unsure, use less macaroni as the pasta really drinks up the sauce and your dish could be drier than you want.
- Cooked Macaroni: Shake off any excess water and allow pasta to sit in strainer to drain excess water for a few minutes. Then shake the pasta again in the strainer before adding to the bowl. Elbow macaroni really tends to hold onto water inside the little tubes of pasta and you want to get as much of that out as possible. Any lingering water that hangs onto the pasta will water down your sauce.
- Flavor: This recipe is an “adult” mac and cheese. It has a tangy, zippy flavor that we fell in love with.
- Cashews and Almond Substitutes: This recipe was specifically designed around the Parmesan Cheese Mixture which is comprised of cashews and almonds. We do not have any alternatives to offer.
- Elbow Macaroni: Feel free to use your favorite elbow macaroni or pasta of choice.
Leftovers and Freezing:
Leftovers will generally keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator. Store in a covered container. Reheating can be done on the stovetop, or in the microwave.
This dish is best served immediately after making. It can be frozen. If frozen, for best results, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Pantry Products Used:
- Frozen Cauliflower Florets: We used a 14.4 oz. frozen bag of Birds Eye Cauliflower Florets. Feel free to use your favorite frozen cauliflower. You can also use an equal amount of fresh cauliflower (florets) if you steam it until tender first.
- Vegetable Stock: We use Pacific Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Stock. We love this brand because it is Whole Food Plant Based compliant, as it does not contain MSG, has no oil, and does not contain any highly-processed ingredients.
- Panko Crumbs: We used Ian’s Gluten Free Panko crumbs for this recipe. Ian’s does have a tiny bit of sugar, but is generally accepted by the Whole Food Plant Based community. If you do not need to be gluten free, feel free to use any panko or bread crumbs of your choosing.
Kitchen Products Used:
- Small casserole dish
- Stock pot to boil the macaroni
- High-Speed Blender
We certainly hope you give this deliciousness a try.
If you try this delicious dish, we would love to know if you enjoy it as much as we do! Please leave us a review! Post a picture on Facebook or Instagram and tag us! We would love to hear from you.Print
Vegan Italian Parmesan Mac and Cheese
- Prep Time: 20 Minutes
- Cook Time: 22-24 Minutes
- Total Time: 42 Minutes (+Rest Time)
- Yield: 4-6 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
Rich, cheesy, and oh-so-satisfying, this healthy, oil-free Vegan Italian Parmesan Mac and Cheese brimming with sophisticated flavors, tender pasta, and crispy topping.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese Mixture Ingredients:
- ¼ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup blanched almond slivers
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch to ¼ teaspoon sea salt *
- 1 – [ 14.4 oz. bag ] frozen cauliflower florets *
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth *
- ½ cup water
- 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 Tablespoons dried minced onions
- ¼ to ¾ teaspoon sea salt (+/-) *
Sauce Spice/Herb Ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (+/-)
- 1 Tablespoon Vegan Parmesan Mixture *
- 2 Tablespoons panko crumbs (or bread crumbs) *
- 8 to 10 oz. GF elbow pasta *
- 1 cup frozen peas *
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Fill a large stock pot full of water. Add some sea salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil then add the elbow macaroni. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Boil the pasta until el dente, drain, shake well, set aside.
- In the meantime, place all the Vegan Parmesan Cheese Ingredients into a high-speed blender, pulse until the ingredients are broken up into a fine sprinkle type mixture. Do not over-blend or you will turn the mixture into a nut butter.
- Remove the Parmesan “Cheese” mixture from the blender and place into a small bowl. Then remove 1 Tablespoon of the Parmesan Cheese Mixture and place into another small bowl for the Topping. Add 2 Tablespoons of Panko crumbs to that bowl, stir well, set aside as that will be the Topping for the casserole.
- Place the frozen cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl; microwave for 6 minutes until hot.
- Next place the hot cauliflower and all the remaining Sauce Ingredients, (including the left-over Parmesan “Cheese”), into the high-speed blender. See the Tips for Success notes for the order of the ingredients into the high-speed blender. Blend on high until everything is smooth and emulsified.
- Lastly, add the Sauce Spice/Herb Ingredients into the Sauce Mixture and gently pulse a couple of times just to mix the herbs into the sauce.
- Then place the Sauce Mixture, cooked macaroni, and peas into a large bowl, mix well to thoroughly coat the macaroni, then pour into a casserole dish, sprinkle the Topping Panko/Parmesan Cheese Mixture all over the top.
- Bake uncovered in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes, then switch the oven to high broil and broil for 2 to 4 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, allow to set for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve and enjoy!
*Please reference the blog post for Tips for Success, Pantry Items Used, Storage and Freezing, and Kitchen Products Used.
*Sea Salt: Please adjust the sea salt based upon your family’s sea salt preferences and/or based upon dietary needs.
*Serving: 4 to 5
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well I would love to try it but am so allergic to cashews. I may try it anyway using sunflower seeds and see how it goes.
Hi there Bonnie 🙂
Thank you so much for reaching out to us. You can typically substitute with sunflower seeds. Please let us know.
-Ameera and Robin 🙂
I don’t see info for adding the peas if one chooses to do so. I assume they get mixed into the pasta mixture just before putting in the casserole dish. Should they be thawed or cooked first?
Hi there Leslie 🙂
Thank you so much for reaching out to us. We apologize for the late response. Yes, the peas should be added when the pasta mixture is added. We accidentally left this off the recipe instructions. Thank YOU for letting us know!
-Ameera and Robin 🙂
The Parm Cheese started out using walnuts–which came from Dr. Joel Furhman… or at least that’s where I saw it long ago. I will definitely try your version though! Making your Southwestern cabbage for dinner tonight… a special meal to celebrate the New Moon! Thank you for sharing!
We are so glad that you’ll be giving this recipe a try, and we hope you enjoy our Southwestern Cabbage as much as we do.