I love, love, love macaroni and cheese. It is one of those childhood meals that I still love and crave, but now with a much more sophisticated palate. I have searched the land of gluten free and vegan recipes for "Meghan-friendly" versions of the creamy goodness, but for one reason or another, I just haven't found the perfect recipe. Most recipes I have found contain rice flour and nutritional yeast, which are great for making a cheesy-like sauce, but sometimes I just can't get past the flavor of nutritional yeast.
So, after some tinkering, I have come up with a solution. My secret? Using veggies and cashews to create that creamy goodness. In my opinion, it has the best taste and is a healthy alternative to actual cheese sauce. You'll see that cayenne pepper is an optional ingredient. When included, it adds a little bit of a kick to the dish and a slight spicy heat, which is quite yummy.
I really dig this stuff. It is sooo creamy and delicious. It doesn't try to be some sort of imitation cheesy mac, instead it has its own flavor and appeal, but for me it's the closest thing I have found to the classic. I think anyone would love it, whether your gluten free and vegan or you digest dairy. I could eat it every week, but I look at it as a treat, saving it for special occasions or as a surprise dinner for Andrew, because it's just that good.
Baked Macaroni & Cheeze
16 oz gluten free pasta (I use Trader Joe's organic brown rice penne pasta)
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2/3 cup white onion, diced
2 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup raw cashews
2/3 cup olive or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp marjarom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Paprika for sprinkling
Gluten free breadcrumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare pasta al dente (still a little firm to the bite), drain and rinse with cold water (prevents it from sticking together) and set aside.
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the potato, carrots and onion and reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes or until veggies are tender. *The smaller the diced veggies, the faster the cooking time.
Combine cashews, oil, garlic, lemon juice, marjoram, salt, black pepper, mustard, cayenne pepper, cooked veggies and water in a blender. Process for a few minutes until the mixture is a creamy, smooth sauce.Place pasta in a 3 quart casserole dish and pour the sauce over it, gently mixing until evenly coated, wiping down the side of the casserole dish if necessary. Sprinkle with paprika.
If desired, top the dish with bread crumbs. (I use this easy and delicious recipe from my absolute, hands-down, favorite food blog: Gluten-Free Goddess)
Bake for 30 minutes.