It’s that time of year when I just crave a cozy evening consisting of a Christmas movie, jigsaw puzzle, warm beverage, soft blanket, and some of the best comfort food. Lucky for me, I’ve had several of those evenings already, in between all the hustle and bustle and holiday parties of the season. Specifically, I’ve checked off It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th St., 2 jigsaw puzzles, mulled wine, hot cocoa, and three nights of homemade vegan/gluten-free mac & cheese. That’s what I call #winning. At the top of this list, and new to the 2014 holiday season, is this macaroni and cheese. I have made three slightly different versions, slowly perfecting the comforting, creaminess that best warms the body and soul. 🙂
Macaroni and cheese has been a fad for quite some time, especially in Seattle with Beecher’s “world’s best” mac & cheese. Unfortunately this world famous cheesy goodness doesn’t work for those like me who avoid dairy and gluten. Despite this, I have enjoyed some pretty good vegan and gluten-free mac & cheese at Veggie Grill and actually spectacular version at Petunia’s in Portland. But the real way to enjoy comfort food is in the peace of one’s home, so as you might expect, I made it my mission this winter to create my own recipe for homemade dairy-free and gluten-free macaroni and cheese.
This mac & cheese is especially wonderful because it’s entirely plant-based and includes no soy or fake “cheeze”. Not only that, but it’s ridiculously easy to make (as long as you have a food processor). It combines sweet potato, butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, tahini, mustard, almond milk, and spices for a delicious blend of savory creaminess. If it’s not already obvious, the nutritional content of this comfort food is pretty impressive, so you can enjoy a generous helping (my boyfriend and I quickly turned the 4 servings into 2) without the guilt, or the belly ache.
For those who aren’t familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s pretty much a vegan health obsession – also called “hippie dust”. 🙂 For good reason…just 1 tablespoon provides over 100% of three essential b-vitamins, 40% b-12, 40% folic acid, and 3 grams of protein. So by itself it’s a powerhouse, and added to all these veggies and other superfoods, it’s beyond nutritious, and tastes as good as the processed food stuff. I served this “cheese” sauce over quinoa macaroni (Ancient Harvest is my personal fav) and tossed it all with spinach and herbed gluten-free breadcrumbs, but it’s easy to keep the gluten or add different veggies or herbs. Get creative and enjoy this comforting dish in a cozy spot, maybe with a fire going if you’re real fancy. Most importantly, Happy Holidays!
- 8 oz pasta (optional: gluten-free)
- 1 tsp olive oil (or more)
- ½ can sweet potato
- ½ can butternut squash
- ½ cup cashews
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp almond milk
- ½ tbsp tahini
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups spinach
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional: gluten-free)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- Fresh basil (optional garnish)
- Add sweet potato and all ingredients through salt in a food processor. Pulse until completely mixed and smooth.
- Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on pasta box. (Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking together.)
- Drain pasta and pour back into pot. Add olive oil and stir well.
- Add sauce and spinach and stir well to coat all the pasta. (You probably want to gradually add sauce because using all will be SUPER creamy.)
- Toss breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning.
- Distribute mac-n-cheese in four bowls and sprinkle with herbed breadcrumbs. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired. Enjoy!