This casserole originated in Chef Del Stroufe's hometown of Columbus, Ohio, at the Marzetti family restaurant. The restaurant is no longer there, but the memories of this Italian American dish go right back to his school, where it was often on the cafeteria menu. A deliciously comforting combination of whole wheat pasta, spicy "sausage" patties, and dairy-free cheese sauce.

Johnny Marzetti: Cheesy Oil-Free Macaroni Casserole [Vegan]





For the Johnny Marzetti:

  • 12 ounces whole grain macaroni
  • 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces Button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 recipe spicy breakfast patties (recipe below), crumbled
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 recipe cheese Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs

For the Spicy Breakfast Patties:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup millet
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tamari, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • Sea salt

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced Russet potatoes (about 1 medium potato)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste


To Make the Johnny Marzetti:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare the macaroni according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onions and mushrooms in a large saucepan over medium- high heat until the onions turn translucent and start to brown, about 8 minutes. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  5. Add the crumbled breakfast patties and drained noodles to the pan and gently mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  6. Spoon the noodle mixture into a nonstick 9×13-inch baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodle mixture and spread it evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the cheese sauce. Bake until bubbly and browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

To Make the Spicy Breakfast Patties:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the water and millet in a 2-quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook the millet until tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. While the millet cooks, sauté the onion in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it turns translucent and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add water 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the onion from sticking to the pan.
  4. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, sage, fennel, and red pepper flakes, and sauté for another minute to toast the seasonings. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the nutritional yeast and cooked millet, season with sea salt to taste, and mix well.
  5. Using a 1/4-cup measure or small ice cream scoop, shape the millet mixture into patties and place them on a nonstick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, turn over the patties, and continue to bake until the patties are firm to the touch and lightly browned, another 10 minutes or so. Serve warm.

To Make the Cheese Sauce:

  1. Combine the potato, bell pepper, onion, and cashews in a small saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Combine the potato mixture, reserved cooking water, tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, and sea salt in a blender. Process on high until everything is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


NOTE FOR THE COOK (Patties): For the millet to work as a binder to hold everything together in these patties, you need to almost overcook it. If it seems crumbly when you first make it, add 2 to 3 tablespoons more water to the pan, cover tightly, and let it cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. The millet should hold together when pinched between your fingers or pressed against the side of the pan. NOTE FOR THE COOK (Cheese Sauce): The key to cutting potatoes safely is carefully cutting them in half so that they sit with stability on the work surface, and then cutting each half as you wish. NOTE FOR THE COOK (Cheese Sauce): The secret to a creamy cheese sauce is in making sure the potatoes are well cooked (they should be very tender when poked with a fork), and then pureeing the potato mixture for several minutes to break down the starch in the potatoes.