The vegan scene in Pittsburgh has been growing at an impressive rate. It’s great to have so many options, and I love to support local businesses that help promote a lifestyle of kindness and empathy as well as health. I was ecstatic when I was contacted to do a feature on Notcho Nocheez. This is a product that I first encountered when I attended VegFeast, which is a local vegan thanksgiving event hosted by Justice for Animals. While it doesn’t look like VegFeast is going to be happening this year due to Covid-19 I’d highly recommend going in the future if you live in the ‘Burgh. It’s a great way to meet like minded people, and share some excellent vegan Thanksgiving food prepared by local businesses. Each table at VegFeast had a jar of Notcho Nocheez to try, and we loved it! Nick is allergic to pretty much every nut besides almonds, so we were thrilled to find a nut based “cheese” product that we could both eat. Notcho Nocheez self-describes as an “almond spread” on it’s label, but it’s so much more than that.
It comes in three different flavors; Tangy, Hot, and Classic. We’ve had every flavor, and really enjoy them all. If I had to pick a favorite I’d probably say it’s the Classic. The Classic flavor is good on its own, but its milder taste allows it a lot of versatility when adding it to recipes. Notcho Nocheez is great as a dip, and a spread. Use it straight out of the jar on your nachos, totchos (tater tot nachos), vegan chili cheese dogs, and so much more. I like to get creative, and make new recipes using the Nocheez as a base. I don’t use a lot of prepackaged products in my cooking, I like to cook from scratch generally, but this is one of the few that I make an exception for. It makes a great substitute for cheese that combines easily with sauces, and tastes better than the oil based vegan cheeses on the market that can be difficult to melt down. If you’re local you can pick up some Notcho Nocheez at one of the many retailers listed on their website, and if you’re not so local you can have it shipped to you.
This recipe is a hearty, starchy baked mac and cheese based off of a recipe my Grandma Doris would always make at the holidays. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving a few years back, and everyone loved it. Even my uncles, who I’m not so sure understand what a vegan diet is, came back for seconds without questioning what it was made from. When devout meat consumers don’t even question where the dairy products are I consider that a success. I’ve packed this recipe full of fresh fall seasonal veggies, and of course, Notcho Nocheez.
Veggie Packed Mac & Nocheez
- 1/2 of a butternut squash (approximately 2 cups cubed)
- 2 carrots
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 1/3 cup Notcho Nocheez Classic
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 16 oz elbow macaroni
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- Clean and peel squash, carrots, and russet potatoes. Save half of your squash to use in other recipes. Chop everything into cubes of about the same size.
- Boil squash, carrots, and potatoes in a large pot full of water for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
- Cool the ingredients, and add them to a food processor. Add in Notcho Nocheez, peeled garlic cloves, onion powder, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes. Blend until it is the consistency of a smooth sauce.
- Cook your elbow macaroni a few minutes shy of the package directions. We cooked ours for about 7 minutes, until it was just shy of al dente. If you cook the noodles to al dente in this stage they’ll get a bit overdone in the oven.
- Once cooking is complete drain the pasta, and run it under cold water to halt the cooking process.
- In a large bowl add the sauce, and the elbow macaroni. Stir to thoroughly coat the macaroni. If you don’t want to make a baked macaroni you can put it on the stove top and warm it up. This sauce is just as good for a creamy stove top mac as it is for a baked mac.
- If you are following the recipe directly, and baking your mac, add the noodles into a large glass baking dish. A 4-5 quart baking dish should hold all of the pasta.
- In a separate bowl combine panko, nutritional yeast, parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Mix dry ingredients together so they are well integrated.
- Top the macaroni with the breadcrumb and herb blend.
- Preheat oven to 375, and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. The top should come out crispy.