RECIPE OF THE WEEK FROM CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LISA WALKER FEATURES VEGAN MAC & CHEESE
I am not vegan, I’m not even vegetarian, but I am trying to reduce the amount of animal products my family and I consume. Sometimes it’s very easy to replace traditional foods with plant-based products, for example, burger night in our house now consists of Impossible Burgers or Beyond Burgers instead of beef burgers. I have also replaced the ground beef in our tacos and in our Bolognese with Beyond or Impossible beef – something that went completely unnoticed by my husband and children until one day (a year into the “experiment”) I finally told them!
So, beef really hasn’t been a problem but I love cheese, in fact if you ask my husband he will tell you that I put cheese on everything (I plead the 5th). So when I started looking into vegan mac & cheese recipes I was skeptical, but I was also intrigued. I experimented with a few different recipes, most of which I found on Instagram. I wasn’t in love with any until I found this recipe from Rainbow Plant Life. My other favorite plant-based food bloggers include Elavegan.com and Ohsheglows.com. For those of you who follow Highfield’s Culinary Director Gail Blakely, Gail wrote about a fantastic vegan spicy turmeric lentil soup from Oh She Glows, and it’s totally worth checking out.
Whether your lifestyle is vegan or you are just sticking your toe in the water, I hope you try this vegan butternut squash mac & cheese and be sure to check out Highfield’s newest culinary instructor Michelle Iztkowitz. Michelle has some wonderful plant-based cooking classes on the upcoming culinary schedule. Bon Appetit!
Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
- 1 medium butternut squash or 2 packages of pre-cut butternut chunks or 2 halves of pre-peeled butternut squash cut into cubes
- Olive oil for roasting squash
- 1 cup raw cashews unsalted, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour and then drained*
- 1 1/2 cup (60g) nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (I add a little more because I like the tanginess)
- 2 tablespoon mellow white or yellow miso paste
- 2 (13.5 ounce/ 400 mL) can “lite” coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon tapioca flour (see the “frequently asked questions” section for substitutes)
- 1 lb. box of Cavatappi pasta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crispy Topping
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp (60-65g) panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted – Earth Balance or Country Crock plant based are good options but if you aren’t totally vegan then go ahead and use regular butter.
- Crispy Topping: In a small bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, salt, paprika, and melted vegan butter until well combined. Set aside until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- If using a whole squash cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Place each squash half, cut side up, on a baking sheet and rub each with a bit of the olive oil or avocado oil and season well with salt and pepper.
- If using pre-peeled and pre-cut place chunks on aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the flesh is completely fork tender and lightly browned.
- Cook the pasta according to the box directions until al dente and drain in a colander and set aside.
- Once the squash is done roasting and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin (if roasting from whole).
- Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.
- Make the cheese sauce: In a high-powered blender (I use a Vitamix), add the squash flesh. Add in the soaked and drained cashews, nutritional yeast, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, miso paste, tapioca flour or cornstarch, lemon juice, lite coconut milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.
- Blend until the sauce is completely smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as you go. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly, adding more salt as needed, more miso paste for more umami, more nutritional yeast for more cheesiness, or more lemon juice for more acidity.
- Return the cooked and drained pasta back to its saucepan and pour in the cheese sauce. Toss until well combined.
- Transfer the mac and cheese to baking dish. Sprinkle the crispy breadcrumb topping evenly over the top.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the topping is crispy and brown.
- Allow to cool for 10-20 minutes to help set up, then dig in and enjoy!
This recipe makes a lot of mac & cheese. I like to divide this recipe into two casserole dishes, I bake one to enjoy right away and freeze the other.
If freezing a second dish do not bake first, just combine the pasta and sauce and freeze.