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Honest to God – this might be the most fucking delicious vegan meal I have ever made! Seriously! And to think it only came together because I had a fridge full of random leftovers & ingredients that I needed to be done with. I had a package of Tofutti American cheese, several slices of their mozzarella cheese (both of which I totally shit-talked in my vegan cheese review) & some leftover pasta. Oh – and two Chinese eggplants.
I actually had this selection of vegan cheeses – seen above. I opted to use the individual slices first because 1) they were getting old and 2) I thought this dish would make better use of (read: mask) their less than fabulous flavor. Ultimately – I did use some of the other two cheeses, as well. The result is AMAZING! You can use whatever vegan cheeses you prefer but you are going to need about a pound of various cheeses – before all is said & done.
I used Chinese eggplant & I recommend them because they are less bitter & carry less moisture than regular eggplant.
I used nutritional yeast but a vegan Parmesan would also work. Or use neither.
This takes a few steps but all are simple & the result is a decadent feast that nobody would ever guess was vegan – at least with this particular combination of cheeses. I find some vegan cheeses taste more fake than others – so – the brands you use will matter – but I am certain lots of other brands would be just as yummy – especially the Field Roast Chao cheeses – my favorite of the vegan cheeses I have tried.
Whatever you do – get it together to make this – at least once. It really is killer!
10-Ingredient Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Feeds 4-6 depending on appetites
4+ cups or so of cooked pasta
2 Chinese eggplant (or other variety) – sliced 1/2″ thick
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or vegan Parmesan)
1 TBS dry parsley
8 oz (or 12 individual slices) vegan American or cheddar cheese (or a mix) – PLUS SOME EXTRA – just in case
4 oz (or 6 individual slices) vegan mozzarella – PLUS SOME EXTRA – just in case
(Extra grated vegan cheese to top the casserole – one that melts would be prettiest)
2 – 3 cups unsweetened vegan milk
1 1/2 – 2 cups pasta sauce (I used Rao’s Arrabbiata)
Basil or parsley (or both) – chopped for garnish
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast & dry parsley in a bowl. Put about 1/2 cup milk in another bowl. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Dunk the eggplant rounds in the milk & then through the breadcrumbs and drop into the hot oil. They should brown pretty quickly. Flip & brown the other side. Put on a cooking sheet & into the oven while you repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked. You will likely need to wipe out the burnt breadcrumbs & add more oil with each batch.
In a stock pot, melt the American and/or cheddar cheese. Add vegan milk in small increments until it becomes creamy. Stir in the pasta. At this point – I decided it needed more cheese so I added two slices of this cheese (below) and a bit more milk & cooked it until it looked wet & yummy & creamy. I am not giving exact directions as to the cheese-milk-pasta ratio because different cheeses might have more or less moisture – and everyone has a different idea of how wet mac & cheese should be. I would suggest going a little wet – as the pasta & eggplant will absorb it & you won’t have a dry dish.
Look at that up there!!!! Doesn’t that look just ridiculous?! It was all I could do not to just start shoving it in my face. But I used considerable will power & continued with the recipe.
So – when you get your pasta-cheese-milk ratio to where it looks creamy but still a bit wet (so it won’t dry out in cooking) – take it off the flame.
Grease a casserole pan & layer half the eggplant on the bottom.
Add another layer of eggplant with the rest of the slices & top with pasta sauce.
In the same pan you melted the cheese in – melt the mozzarella & pour it over your casserole & pop the pan into the oven.
At this point – I took my dogs for a walk – COMPLETELY forgetting I had this in the oven. I think it needed 30-45 minutes in the 375 oven – but it got way more than that. Don’t burn yours. I kinda did. Look – not so pretty.
So – in an effort to make it pretty again – I grated some of that cheese above onto it & popped it back into the oven for about ten minutes. As you can see – it did little to make it prettier (that cheese did not want to melt) – but when I scooped it onto plates – it looked & SMELLED amazing!
So – maybe do not burn yours & it will be prettier but nobody needs to see it before it hits the plate, anyway.
So – scoop some onto plates & garnish with parsley and/or basil. I swear – this will fool people out of suspecting it is vegan. So yummy & comforting!
Waste no time & devour it!