Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Last week we decided to try out a new recipe for vegan macaroni and cheese.  I've tried several such recipes as a vegan, but none of them has been quite right.  Many vegan mac and cheese recipes incorporate nutritional yeast, a powdery substance with a nutty, cheesy flavor; however, in addition to the creamy, cheesy flavor it brings to a dish, nutritional yeast also has an aftertaste that can mar the overall tastiness. 

With that in mind, I decided to make use of the rich nuttiness of cashews in this version of Baked Macaroni and Cheese. 

Don't you love that crusty baked top?

Spoiler alert: it turns out that nuts and vegetables can combine into a pretty delicious pasta sauce, but they certainly don't become cheese. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
  • 8 ounces whole wheat macaroni
  • 4 slices of old bread, torn into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted cashews
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

First, prepare the macaroni in salted water, according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Next, place the bread and 2 tablespoons butter in a food processor and process until you have fine breadcrumbs.  Set aside.

At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then, bring the shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Cook for 15 minutes or until very soft.  Meanwhile, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup butter, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor or blender.  Once the vegetables are cooked, add them along with the cooking water to the blender and mix until smooth.  

Mix together the pasta and "cheese" sauce in a large casserole dish or glass baking pan.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and dust with paprika.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Serve hot.

Serves 6.

We all enjoyed this pasta dish--and it was incredible to see vegetables and nuts come together into such a delicious sauce--but, when it comes down to it, this macaroni and cheese just isn't very cheesy.  The flavor was nutty and smooth, but neither creamy nor gooey.  As Rachel put it, "It's [not] the cheesiest!"  Still, as I said, it was a tasty dish.  My favorite part was probably the crispy, crunchy texture of the baked topping...and the fact that it didn't set me back over 1,000 calories.
This recipe uses many ingredients to make up for one (cheese), but nothing is too hard to find.  Buying cashews might seem a little expensive when you only need 1/4 cup, but you can always snack on the extras later.  Yum.
 Ease of Preparation:        
This recipe takes a while to make between the boiling and baking, but it's all pretty simple (as long as you have a blender or food processor). 
Non-vegan friendliness:       
Yummy pasta dish?  Yes.  Macaroni and cheese?  No. 

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