Parmesan in a pinch: no cow required

two brown cows

We recently tried this caramelized zucchini pasta recipe by Ali Slagle in the New York Times. It calls for parmesan, and I haven’t found a good vegan option locally, so I googled for a recipe. Cookie and Kate came to the rescue with this easy recipe! It’s just 5 ingredients mixed up in a bowl–nutritional yeast flakes, hemp seed, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder–no food processor required. I know many people put nutritional yeast on everything. I am not that vegan. For me, texture matters as much as taste, and the hemp seed gives it the right granular texture.

Two suggestions on the zucchini: a spiralizer works well in place of a grater! And it doesn’t *need* to be cooked for 20-25 minutes, but you may discover the longer cook time enhances the taste. Be forewarned that this dish does not resemble zucchini. It’s more like pesto. We layered it with our all-time favorite pasta puttanesca sauce over red lentil pasta.

(Hemp seed and nutritional yeast flakes are available at Trader Joe’s.)

A Tip from a Carb Country Regular

Slicing zucchini

The pandemic has limited travel but not our visits to Carb Country. Why do carbs have to be so yummy, satisfying, and comforting? So unfair. 

Well, just like my efforts to drink half caffs by custom mixing my coffee (currently Nevada Black from Blind Dog Coffee in Reno and Lavazza Espresso Decaf, my most reliable dark roast decaf), we tried a similar experiment with lasagna and carbs. We used regular lasagna noodles and Palmini lasagna noodles. Palmini is made from hearts of palm. For the most part, it disappears into lasagna. It’s not that you can’t tell it is hearts of palm; it’s just that it fits right into a veggie lasagna. And it helps lower that net carbs count. We have had similar luck using zucchini and summer squash. 

The recipe below is one of our go-to meal prep dishes. I have finally made the leap to vegan cheese. It’s gotten so much better. We usually use Daiya Mozzarella-Style Shreds for this recipe. This recipe is versatile, and you can easily adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes.

Squash Casserole: A Lasagne Stand-in


  • 2 yellow summer squash sliced
  • 2 zucchini sliced
  • The equivalent of 1 egg (we use Bob’s Red Mill Vegan Egg Replacer)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise (we use Best Foods Vegan Spread)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion (any kind, including green onions)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (we use Earth Balance vegan butter)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (any kind works – we used gluten-free rice crumbs from Trader Joe’s)
  • Seasoning to taste: We use a combo of Dash, coffee rub, salt, and pepper; herbes de Provence would work well, too
  • Optional add-ins: fire-roasted tomatoes, carrot chips or shreds, shredded kale


  1. Heat oven to 375°. 
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients. We sometimes toss the vegetables with a bit of olive oil and the seasonings before mixing in the mayo, cheese, and egg replacer. 
  3. Spoon the mixture into an 8×8 inch glass casserole (or larger if you add extra veggies). Add extra cheese on top if desired.
  4. Toss the bread crumbs with the  2 tablespoons of melted butter; spread over the casserole. 
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.

It makes 4-8 servings depending on if it’s a main dish or a side dish –  and how much you like it. 🙂

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash