Sometimes, you just need some comfort food. Some serious, serious comfort food. This recipe has been banging around in my brain for a while, but I’ve had some doubts about posting it. (Is this something people are interested in? Is it even macaroni and cheese? Is this silly?) A chat with a friend (who reminded me that not only vegans, but also those with lactose-intolerance, would find this recipe valuable) and Adam’s response while eating it (murmurs and exclamations of joy – from a man who is usually skeptical about ‘my’ versions of meals), were enough to overcome my self-doubts. And here we are.
It’s mac-and-cheese, but not as you know it! This is a gluten-free version, made with gluten-free macaroni (you could, of course use regular macaroni if you like). The sauce (which I could eat from a spoon) has a base of cashews, and made super savoury and delicious by nutritional yeast, miso paste, garlic, and a handful of herbs and spices.
On a nutritional note: nutritional yeast is a great source of vegan B12; and this dish is loaded with good-for-you monounsaturated fats, a respectable 13 g of protein and a decent amount of iron as well. Based on my (very approximate) calculations.
But nutrition is boring, and I bet you’re really wondering what it tastes like. It’s incredibly umami (savoury), the sauce is silky, rich and soft from the cashews. It is incredibly filling and satisfying. Because this is quite a rich dish, I prefer to serve it with some fresh green veggies. Here I’ve grilled some zucchini, but I’ve also used cooked (steamed, roasted, whatever) kale, broccoli, and spinach to great effect.
One final thing to mention: this recipe is quick. Very quick. If you’ve got the blender ready to go and your greens pre-cooked, it could take just the time it takes to cook the pasta. Quick, delicious, serious comfort food.
Macaroni and Cheese with Grilled Zucchini
inspired by The Post-Punk Kitchen’s Chipotle Mac & Cheese
- After many failures with gluten-free pasta, I’ve discovered the secret is a solid 1 minute of stirring from the second you’ve put the pasta in the water. Otherwise it tends to clump awkwardly.
- Feel free to up the ante heat wise, by adding chilli flakes to taste.
- If you save some and want to reheat it later, add a dash of water to loosen up the sauce.
- The method for cooking this should flow something like this: prep zucchini, set water to boil, grill zucchini, add pasta to water, put sauce ingredients in the blender, when the pasta is almost done add pasta water to blender and blend sauce, drain the pasta, mix with sauce and serve.
- 250 g dry macaroni pasta (I use san remo’s gluten free)
- 1 cup (150 g) cashews, soaked in water overnight, then drained
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp shiro (white) miso paste
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp English mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp tumeric
- 1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- lots of cracked black pepper
- 1 cup cooking water from the pasta
- lemon wedges and chopped chives, to serve
For the zucchini
- 2 large, or 3 medium zucchini, sliced into coins
- olive oil
- sea salt
Fill a medium pot full of water, and add a big pinch of salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Working in batches, fry the zucchini coins in a single layer (sprinkle with a little salt) on both sides until crispy and golden. Re-drizzle with oil between batches.
Add the dry pasta to the saucepan of boiling water, stirring to ensure they don’t clump. Cook for the time indicated on the packet.
To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender (add the pasta water towards the end of the pasta’s cooking time). Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, until a silky sauce is achieved. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour in the sauce and stir to combine. Serve with grilled zucchini, sprinkle with chives, and squirt with lemon.