File this one under, “tastes good cold, right out of the pan the next day.” I may or may not be eating this very classy vegan mac and cheese cold as I type this. So what makes it classy? Well, for starters, it’s vegan, so boom – classy. But also, this elevated macaroni and cheese has lots of veggies right in the creamy sauce, as well as a savory swirl of sauteed chard, mushrooms and onions. Bake it up with a crumbly topping and you’re practically a vegan comfort food wizard.
This recipe is inspired by a classic in the vegan recipe world from VegNews. They came up with the idea to boil a medley of vegetables and blend it to create a creamy, cheezy sauce for mac and cheese and I think it’s brilliant. My version has quite a few changes, including reducing the fat, pumping up the veggies and really pushing that “cheez” factor with some good old nutritional yeast.
Start by soaking some cashews in water for an hour, up to overnight. This step is optional if you have a high speed blender (we love our Vitamix like it’s part of the family) but I do soak my cashews for about an hour or so anyway.
Then gather up some veggies – look at all the vegetables that go into this mac and cheese! In the sauce, we are using garlic, onion, yellow bell pepper (you can use red or orange too), carrots and parsnips. In the sauté we will have mushroom, sliced chard and more onion. You can sub spinach or kale for the chard and a potato for the parsnips if you prefer it.
Roughly cut the sauce vegetables, relatively uniformly, and boil them in eight cups of salted water until they are tender.
Then, along with the soaked cashews and some other seasonings – I think the chili flake is a very important element for a tiny kick – blend the sauce until it’s nice and smooth and creamy.
Keep the water from the veggies boiling and use it to cook some pasta elbows. Use whole wheat, gluten free, whatever kind of pasta you like. Then simply prepare the sautée and mix it all together in a baking dish to prepare to bake.
For my crunchy topping I used a little bit of Panko and one slice of slightly stale french bread chopped up and mixed with some vegan butter. Use what you have on hand. After baking, garnish with some fresh parsley and sliced scallions.
Serve it with a simple leafy greens side salad and that’s dinner! This recipe makes quite a bit so save this one for holidays, guests, pot lucks, or if you’re like me, just keep it in the fridge and eat it cold.