There's nothing that says comfort food more than …
mac and cheese
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It's ooey gooey and who hasn't been eating it since they were kids?
It's also one of those foods that everyone seems to have a favorite way of not only making but eating.
Whether you pick up a blue box filled with Sponge Bob noodles & yellow powdery stuff (no judgments), or you make it from scratch; you know what you like.
If hip size and healthy eating were no obstacle, I'd make mine with whole milk, spirally noodles, and longhorn cheese packaged in wax. It would be baked on a cookie sheet to maximize the crusty surface area and served with lots of salt and ketchup.
But alas, I've grown up and now my recipes must as well
Therefore, in the name of comfort food, I went forth, not terribly optimistic, but willing to try. My goodness was I ever wrong. We loved this recipe and
didn't miss a thing!
There were a number of places I strayed from the original, and have a few thoughts around things I'll do differently when I make it again. It's really the concept that sets this version apart
Roasted and puréed butternut squash serves as a replacement for cheese; it's truly wonderful
(** Note from Ali: This recipe made its initial appearance in February of 2013, way back when The Veggies was just getting started and was on the menu this week at our house. It's such a great meal, and well deserving of some updated photos)
A few additional notes
There's no perfection when it comes to pureeing the butternut squash. I don't mind a few little chunks; they add bits of interest and texture.
I stayed pretty close to the original proportions when it came to the ratio of squash to cheese. When I make it again, I'll up the squash and lower the amount of cheese even more.
One recipe makes a fairly large amount and could feed a crowd. For the two of us, I cut the recipe in half, and we had a decent amount of left-overs
When it comes to making mac and cheese, there are a couple of different camps. One starts with a roux. The other combines all of the ingredients into a baking dish, pours milk over the top and pops it in the oven to bake until all of the milk has been absorbed.
I fall into the later. Not that a roux is bad, but I think next time I'll skip the butter and flour, pour the milk over the top, and bake.
There are so many twists on mac and cheese. Use this as a base to make it yours
~Adapted from The Chalkboard and originally from The Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen Cookbook
Butternut Mac and Cheese
- 1 ½ - 2 lbs. butternut squash (about 1 medium squash, peeled and cubed)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup canned coconut milk
- 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, divided
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp large-flake nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
- 1 Tbsp white miso
- 1 lb elbow pasta (any gluten-free variety will be great here, too)
- 2 cups cooked vegetables, optional, such as steamed chopped spinach, blanched peas or lightly steamed broccoli florets
- ½ cup cup dry breadcrumbs (gluten-free if you’re avoiding gluten)
- Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare a 7 x 11 pan (or something equivalent)
- Coat the squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, then spread it evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until very tender and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven. Decrease the oven's temp to 350°F.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown.
- Add the coconut milk and ¾ cup of the almond milk.
- Whisk in the nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder. Cook, whisking constantly, until nice and thick, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and add the remaining ½ cup of almond milk, the butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and the paprika, lemon juice and miso.
- Stir to distribute the ingredients somewhat evenly.
- Working in batches, transfer to a blender or food processor and process until totally smooth and creamy.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
- Stir in the pasta and adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well and let cool briefly.
- Put the pasta in a large bowl and add the vegetables.
- Add the sauce, using only 2 cups of it if not adding the optional vegetables. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
- Spread the mix evenly in the prepared pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve right away.