Ah, mac and cheese. I could sing thy praises for a lifetime. You are the chunky knit sweater of foods. Your warm, chewy, cheesy goodness is like a warm hug for my insides, and you have always been there to provide sustenance after many a
I shall never tire of you, but alas, your excessive caloric composition prevents me from enjoying you as often as I desire.
Oh, what's that you say now? A vegan version? With an autumnally appropriate butternut squash sauce? And a crispy, golden panko-sage topping?
Sign me up.
Whatever it takes to keep me enjoying this classic comfort food whenever the mood strikes and with a guilt free conscience is fine by me.
Ok, weird ode to mac and cheese over. But seriously, this vegan recipe is currently floating around in my top three favorite mac and cheese preparations (trailing by a hair behind truffle/garlic/fontina mac and lobster mac), and once you try it I suspect it will sit high up on your list, too. A rich, silky sauce comprised of pureed butternut squash and a base of cashew béchamel- which is my new favorite thing to use in like, everything- is tossed with pasta, topped with an aromatic panko and crispy sage breadcrumb topping (swoon) and baked to perfection.
Side note- how cute are the pasta noodles I used?! Technically the shape is called Tirale, but in this house they will be affectionately referred to as Mohawk Macaroni:
for the panko-sage crust:
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute
1 clove garlic, smashed
8-10 sage leaves
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
for the macaroni:
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 lb. dried pasta
1/4 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups plain almond milk
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2-3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic, grated
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash in a steamer basket set over boiling water and cover. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Pass through a mesh strainer to remove any remaining lumps.
2. Boil pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. To make the panko sage breadcrumbs, melt 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add sage and smashed garlic, cooking until sage is crisp on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Remove sage leaves and drain on paper towels. Add panko to skillet and stir to combine. Cook until breadcrumbs are golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and crumble sage leaves back into pan. Reserve mixture for later use.
4. To make the cashew béchamel, blend cashews and 1/2 cup of almond milk in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. Melt Earth Balance in a medium saucepan and add flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until flour is cooked through and mixture has turned golden brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the remaining cup of almond milk and all remaining ingredients, stirring to combine, and cook until mixture has thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
5. Remove bechamel from heat and fold in butternut squash puree until completely incorporated. Add pasta to pot and combine with sauce. Spoon into greased individual ramekins or a 9x9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle generously with breadcrumb mixture and bake for about 20 minutes.