Meatless Monday: Vegan Mac and Cheese

I’m excited to announce that we’ve officially partnered with the Meatless Monday Campaign.  Launched in 2003 in conjunction with John Hopkins to get people to cut down on meat consumption for both health and environmental reasons, it has since become a truly global movement.  Schools, companies, restaurants and bloggers like me participate in the campaign on a weekly basis.  The recipes made will be shared on various media outlets to get the word out.

Ours will still be the vegan recipes you’ve come to know, but also marketed to those who may not yet have become vegan. Maybe they are interested but don’t know where to begin. I think it’s a great resource, so on that note…let’s get started with this week’s recipe!

Vegan Mac and Cheese.  Now, this recipe’s goal is to offer an alternative to cheese.  While you could certainly use a vegan cheese product, I have yet to find a melting vegan alternative I love.  So this is more of a flavorful cheese-like vegetable based sauce.

It’s thick, creamy and tastes delicious!

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

The very first thing we need to do is soak the cashews.  I wasn’t able to find raw cashews in my local store, so I got lightly roasted.  In this dish, it only added to the flavor.  We want to soak them for at least 30 minutes to an hour to make them soft enough to puree into a cream.  If you are not using a high speed blender, just soak them overnight. The water gets discarded prior to blending.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

Next, we saute diced potatoes, carrots and onions in a low-sodium vegetable broth.  This one is the Imagine brand which has a really rich color to it.  Once the vegetables become tender, it all gets added to the blender.  Allow to cool for a minute or two.  You never want to add a hot mixture to a blender.  Things expand and there is potential for the lid to be forced off.  We don’t want any kitchen accidents here.

In addition to the cashews and vegetable mixture, we also add almond milk and seasonings.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

And this is what it looks like after 1 minute of blending.  At this point, it’s important to taste for seasoning and adjust for consistency.  A little salt and maybe a smidge more broth may be in order.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

Once you have a tasty, creamy sauce, it’s time to fold it into the pasta.  We boiled up some medium shells, but you could also use traditional elbows.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

If you like your mac and “cheese” a bit looser, you can enjoy it right now.  This next step is completely optional, but it’s how we do it in my family.

Spoon the mac and cheese into an oven safe dish and top with panko bread crumbs.  We melted a bit of vegan margarine with those crumbs so we’d get a nice golden crust.  Pop it into a 350 degree oven just until browned and you are done.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

It looks pretty convincing, doesn’t it?  The secret to this vegan mac and “cheese” is all in the sauce.  It’s about building flavor.  This is a nice, healthy alternative to the traditional dish.  I served mine with glazed carrots and garnished with fresh parsley.

This recipe serves four people.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

 

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"
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Meatless Monday: Vegan Mac and Cheese
Ingredients
  • 10 oz . Pasta medium shells or elbows
  • 1/2 C Vegetable Stock + 1/4 C Water
  • 1/2 C Potatoes any yellow variety, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 C Onions finely diced
  • 1 medium Carrot peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 C Raw Cashews soaked for at least 30 minutes or overnight
  • 2 Tbl Almond Milk
  • 1 heaping Tbl Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/8 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Salt or more to taste
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/8 tsp Paprika
  • Pinch of Cayenne
  • 2 Tbl Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbl Vegan Margarine optional, melted
Instructions
  1. Soak the cashews for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you are not using a very high powered blender. We want them soft so that they puree into a cream.
  2. In a large saute pan, add the vegetable broth, water, potatoes, carrots and onions. Saute until vegetables are tender.
  3. Boil the pasta and drain - do not rinse.
  4. Drain the cashews and add to the blender along with the vegetables. Allow this mixture to cool slightly before processing.
  5. Add the almond milk, nutritional yeast and remaining ingredients to the blender.
  6. Pulse to get the blending started and then puree for 1 minute or until completely smooth.
  7. It is important to taste at this point for seasoning and adjust with additional stock if necessary for a thinner consistency.
  8. Add the vegetable puree to the drained pasta gradually. You may not need or want it all. It will thicken as it stands and also if you choose to bake with the breadcrumb topping.
  9. Spoon into an oven safe dish.
  10. Combine the breadcrumbs and melted vegan margarine with a fork and spoon evenly over the mac and cheese.
  11. Bake at 350 just until browned.
  12. Serve with your favorite vegetable or a slice of crusty bread.
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