“Cheese makes everything better” is a core tenet of my cooking philosophy.
But like my fellow recipe developer Emma, I’ve recently boarded the “maybe less dairy, sometimes” bandwagon. Like Emma, I’ve been making little swaps here and there, and I have to admit, it’s been great for my skin. It’s also been great for that overstuffed, puffy feeling I sometimes get after I eat too much cacio e pepe. (If this means I’m slightly lactose intolerant, please don’t tell me.)
But it hasn’t been so great for pasta night.
Until I found vegan Parmesan. More specifically, the four-ingredient version from Julie Piatt and Rich Roll’s The Plantpower Way: Italia, which comes together in the time it takes to boil a pot of water.
WHY IT WORKS
Plantpower‘s “Parmesan” calls for just four ingredients: cashews, miso paste, garlic, and nutritional yeast.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—cashews are the MVP ingredient of vegan cooking. They provide enough creamy richness to mimic cheese, without a discernibly distinctive mouthfeel. In other words, they’re a blank canvas.
Meanwhile, miso steps in as a double-duty power hitter: It adds saltiness and umami. Using a white or yellow miso will yield a mellower flavor, while using red miso will impart more assertiveness.
Last but certainly not least, nutritional yeast packs a cheesy nuttiness that, when paired with garlic, simulates the delicate pungency of Parmesan.
You can—and should—adjust the recipe to taste with fine grain salt.
TO SOAK, OR NOT TO SOAK?
Depends on your ideal texture.
As Piatt and Roll say, “If you skip soaking the nuts, your cheese will have a firmer texture.” Unsoaked cashew Parmesan is more grainy, like what you’d use to top pasta.
Soaking the cashews unlocks a creamier dimension to the recipe, yielding something of a hybrid crumble/spread. (And if you disobey the recipe and keep pulsing beyond the point of “mealy” with soaked cashews, you’ll get more of a dip.)
IT’S NOT JUST FOR PASTA NIGHT
Like I’ve said, when it comes to cheesy toppings, I think more is more. As in, more cheese, on more dishes, more times a day, and oh my god, can we add more hours to eat cheese into the solar calendar??
One batch will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 cup
cup cashews (can be soaked overnight or not)
tablespoons miso paste
large garlic clove
cup nutritional yeast
NEXT UP, SAUCE
Have you tried to make vegan cheese? Let us know in the comments!