A classic Egyptian comfort food, Macarona Bechamél oozes a creamy béchamel sauce, layered over penne pasta, savory beef, and gooey cheesy flavor throughout. This pasta casserole will be a huge hit with the whole family. The classic recipe with meat sauce can be found in my archives, and it is one of my top hits, so be sure to try it out if you eat beef. As our family transitioned to a more plant-based life style, I experimented with a good meat substitute. The result is a delicious, savory, flavorful vegetable sauce that mimics the look and texture of the beef, but is 100% whole food ingredients including mushrooms, peppers, and eggplant. This combination of vegetables builds a deep and complex flavor profile that we found to be even more enjoyable than any meat sauce! It is thick and savory, with a rich texture, and the caramelized onions, peppers, and mushrooms give an umami effect that will really please your taste buds. This vegetarian pasta casserole, uses pantry basics as well as some of the best vegetables in season now, and readily available during the pandemic. The eggplants and peppers also have a great shelf life (eggplants can even sit out for a few days before you find time to sanitize everything!), so it is conducive to the bi-weekly grocery trips induced by the shelter at home orders currently in place.
Vegan or Vegetarian?Jump to Recipe
For this recipe, I use the original masterpiece, adapted from my mother in law, which you can find here. I simply swap out the beef sauce for this vegan sauce. The casserole as a whole however, is vegetarian not vegan because of the addition of the cheeses and milk in the sauce. However, I layered the penne tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper and the vegan sauce for my husband in a smaller casserole and he enjoyed it without the creamy bechamél. You can adjust this to your liking. I have never tried vegan cheeses, I would rather just omit it 🙂 Let me know what you try out, in the comments below!Jump to Recipe
Vegetarian Macarona Bechamél
- 1 1/2 lb penne pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the Vegan Filling:
- 1/2 onion, diced (1/2 cup) diced
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms (3 cups)
- 1 tsp all spice , optional
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 1/4 c diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 c diced green pepper or cubanelle pepper
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, minced
- 1/4 c tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp all spice
For the Bechamél:
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1/2 c flour + 2 tbsp
- 4.5 cups of milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 c shredded romano cheese
- 1/4 c shredded mozzarella
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Cook the penne pasta in boiling water with oil, until just past al dente (it will cook more in the oven), and set aside to drain.
For the Vegan filling:
- Start by soaking the eggplant in a salt bath of cold water and 2 tbsp of salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes to draw out the bitter juices. Then rinse and set on a towel to drain.
- In a large saute pan, cook the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp of oil. Add the peppers and toss until all coated in oil.
- Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until they are minced finely and look similar to minced meat. Be careful not to puree to a paste!
- Cook the mushrooms in the pan, and add 1 tbsp more oil. Add all spice if desired. Let them cook until any water is evaporated and they begin to turn color and sizzle.
- Add eggplants and a little more oil if needed.
- Once the eggplants have gained some color, add the tomato sauce, parsley, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until no liquid remains, and remove from heat.
For the Bechamel Sauce:
- Make the béchamel sauce by first melting the butter over LOW heat and stirring in the oil once butter has melted. Gradually whisk in the flour until you have developed a golden paste.
- Slowly add the milk, bit by bit, stirring constantly. Use an immersion blender to completely blend smoothly.
- Add the chicken broth and stir so that it is all evenly distributed.
- Turn the heat up to medium. Keep stirring and once the mixture bubbles, turn the heat back down to low.
- Add 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of the shredded romano cheese. Remove the sauce from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, 1/4 cup of romano cheese, and 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella. Add about 2 tbsp of the béchamel to the pasta and toss until the penne is all well coated in flavor.
- Layer the casserole in a 9 inch rectangular dish in even layers in the following order: half of the pasta, all of the beef, the other half of the pasta, then the béchamel sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, uncovered. Set to broil for the final 3-5 minutes to achieve a golden color on top.
- Allow the casserole to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Bil hana will shifaa!