Mac and cheese.
What other three-word culinary phrases tug at the heart strings just so? Chocolate Chip Cookie, Whole Roasted Chicken, Creamy Mashed Potatoes; ok, there are a few.
Mac and Cheese leaves me in a puddle of nostalgia, barely capable of stringing together a sentence just thinking about a creamy, cheesy bite. It also has me reaching for a digestive aid as the combination of butter, milk, cheese, and wheat leaves me in a world of hurt. Too much information? Sorry.
Unwilling to accept a lifetime without my childhood favorite, I set out in search of a mac and cheese that would woo my head without bullying my body.
I began by sifting through a bunch of vegan mac and cheese recipes, then placed a phone call to my favorite vegan to debate cashew vs. vegan cheese based sauces. With a list of ingredients and aromatics, and notes on sauce ideas it was time to get testing.
Recipe testing is a little like playing mad scientist when you were a kid, concocting a fanciful beverage out of all the fridge condiments for your little sister to try, (nothing personal Jamie). This time around, however, you have to record everything. Instead of carefree, impromptu creativity- I think I’ll add a little chocolate syrup, or this pickle brine will be delicious!, each alteration, no matter how small, must be recorded.
Once I had the sauce down it was on to the pasta. Whole wheat pasta was too dry and nutty, regular pasta- not nutritious enough, finally Quinoa pasta turned out to be just right. Made from corn flour and quinoa flour, these elbows have the perfect give, though they didn’t hold up well over the next couple of days when reheated.
Now, after more test dinners than either the man or I care to admit, I give you Mac and Yes Please.
Mac and Yes Please
I used a high-powered blender for this recipes, so I can’t promise your sauce will be ultra creamy our of a blender of food processor.Let me know how it works, in fact let me know how you personalize the recipe: what you added or took out, if you are successful with a different pasta, or anything else.
Serves 8 politely, 6-4 who are hungry.
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in two cups water for at least two hours.
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 teaspoons yellow miso
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
12 oz Quinoa elbows or pasta of your choice**
2 cups bread crumbs, toasted* optional
- Preheat the oven to 350. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat.
- Drain the cashews in a fine mesh strainer and give a rinse. Transfer the cashews to the blender and add 2 cups of water. Blend on medium speed until the nuts have broken down completely and you are left with a smooth sauce.
- Transfer the cashew cream to a sauce pot. Rinse out the blender with a 1/2 cup water and add to the pot along with the nutritional yeast, braggs, lemon juice, miso, black pepper and garlic powder. Gently warm the sauce over medium heat. You don’t need to hover over the sauce, but watch the heat. The cream likes to congregate on the bottom of the pan and burns quickly.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta just a hair shy of the package directions. This way the pasta soaks up some of the cream when it bakes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta and transferring it to a large bowl. Pour the cashew sauce over the pasta and stir to coat. Add the daiya and mix well. If the sauce looks too thick, add a little of the pasta water, about 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
- Transfer the mac and yes please to a 9×13 baking dish. You don’t need to prep the dish, but if a once over with cooking spray makes you feel better, go for it.
- If using, scatter the bread crumbs over the mac and cheese evenly. You can also add daiya with the breadcrumbs, I suggest using the remainder of the package so you get a nice gooey top.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.until the dish is warmed through. Remove the dish from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
*Using a gluten free pasta and gluten free bread crumbs (or omitting them all together) will keep this dish free of gluten.
**The brand of Quinoa pasta I use comes in 8oz boxes which means you’ll need two to fill a 9×13 baking dish. Using one would be fine, just use a square baking dish and enjoy a saucier version.
*** Dayia is THE BEST cheese alternative! It melts wonderfully and lends a convincing cheddar flavor to the mac and cheese. I haven’t experimented with other vegan cheeses so I can’t speak to their results.
****Are you sick of * yet? Sorry. Im’ Done**. Honest ***.*