I’m not sure when I first discovered I had a serious love for mac and cheese. It was definitely as a child and it was either at home with a Heinz tin of it, on toast naturally, every tinned pasta in the UK ends up on toast, or on a trip to America as part of an all you can eat buffet. On reflection, it wasn’t the best mac and cheese in the world but it started something. That bright yellow, that isn’t found in any other pasta dish I can think of, just draws me in!
I make a pretty good regular mac and cheese if I do say so myself, but I’m eating less and less dairy lately so have made a vegan version of mac and cheese a few times now. I made it the other night, under the watchful eye of my Madre, and whilst I asked her to taste the sauce, I remembered she doesn’t like mac and cheese… On tasting the sauce, her words were something along the lines of, “oh that’s good, you wouldn’t know if didn’t have dairy in”… success! I’m not sure I agree with her that you wouldn’t know, and maybe she was just being nice but it did taste pretty good. It didn’t taste like the real thing, it never will do, but it’s fast becoming a good replacement.
So reach for the butternut squash and nutritional yeast, yep that’s a thing – vegans will already know full well what it is, and skip the dairy with this mac no cheese recipe…
OK, before the recipe, I feel I need to explain first what nutritional yeast is for those that don’t know. Why do so many vegan essential ingredients have hideous names? So, it looks like fish food, stay with me, it’s got a nutty, creamy, cheesy flavour, so works great in sauces like this to add a savoury cheesy taste to it. You might hear it called “nooch”, I’m not cool enough for that, so seek out some nutritional yeast and give it a taste!
Anyway, on with the recipe… It’s a good base for a vegan mac and cheese recipe but as usual with most of my recipes, I always meddle and tweak it each time I make it.
This served 4 very hungry people, would probably serve more though! You’ll need some sort of a blender for the sauce.
500g macaroni or penne or fusili, whatever shapes you have will do
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into inch sized pieces, ish
1 potato, same treatment as the squash
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp English mustard
1 veg stock cube, and about 300ml water
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
100ml soy milk, or whatever milk alternative you like to use
Oil, again whatever you have, not the good stuff, it’s just for frying
Salt and pepper
Start by getting a pan of boiling water on for your pasta and put the kettle on to make your stock with. While this is happening prep your veg.
In a big frying pan heat some oil and fry the onions over a medium heat. When they’ve softened add the garlic, squash and potato. Let these fry for a few minutes. Add the stock and the milk, you can add more liquid later if you need it. Add the mustard and leave to simmer until the veg are soft.
Put the pasta on to cook, follow the instructions on the packet for this. Once the veg are cooked through, blend the sauce and add the noo… nope, can’t say it, sounds stupid… nutritional yeast and keep blending until it’s smooth. You might want to add some more liquid here if you need it. Give it a taste and season the sauce to your liking.
Now the next step depends on how patient and hungry you’re feeling. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta and pop in a dish under the grill to make the top a little crispy, or just eat it as it is if you can’t wait. I sometimes like to add herbs and breadcrumbs to the top before I grill it too, experiment with it!