Chunky Best-Ever Vegan Macaroni Cheese

Chunky Best-Ever Vegan Macaroni Cheese
Macaroni cheese was always one of my favourite dishes when I was vegetarian, and I wasn’t about to give it up when I ditched dairy! I make this quite a lot for my daughter when she has a friend over for tea and I’m always happy to snaffle a bowl for myself – after all, there is nothing to dislike about pasta drenched in a creamy sauce (which for all the world tastes cheesy but contains none) topped with cherry tomatoes and chunks of crouton-like baguette. This recipe is not intended just for kids though – vegan or not, macaroni cheese is the definition of an easy, mid-week comfort supper for just about anyone!

The sauce includes optional ‘hidden’ veg in the form of butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots or pumpkin; not purely for superficial natural colouring purposes, it also boosts the nutritional content (and helps clear out your fridge). You can omit this veg entirely – you can simply add a little extra non-dairy milk to bring the sauce to the right consistency. I like to add peas and the rustic toppings at the end, but it still tastes good in its simplest form (ie just the sauce and pasta, straight out of the pan.)

This macaroni cheese is easy to make, bursting with goodness and is universally liked by the kids I’ve served it to – who have never questioned the lack of cheese, either! If you happen to have any of my Parmesan Sprinkles to hand, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on top before putting it in the oven for an extra cheesy kick!

Generously serves 2 adults and 2 children.

Please note this recipe contains nuts I hate pointing out the obvious, but make sure you know about any allergies before serving. You can omit the nuts by using an extra tablespoon of cornflour and adding a splash of olive oil to the saucepan along with the milk. You also won’t need to process the dry mixture before using (as this is purely to grind the cashews.)

250g pasta – macaroni or penne (dry uncooked weight)
Optional: 160g diced vegetables – use potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash or any combination of these

Dry ‘cheese’ mix:
1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch in the US)
2 tbsp raw cashews (about 20g)
4 tbsp nutritional flakes
1/2 tbsp mustard powder
1/2 tbsp onion granules (not salt)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar (any)
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
350-500ml unsweetened non-dairy milk (any, I usually use oat) Only use the full 500ml if you’re not blitzing steamed vegetables in the sauce.

To finish (optional): Half a baguette or 2 slices of bread, chopped into chunks, a big handful of cherry tomatoes and about 150g frozen peas or other cooked diced veg (I had some leftover carrots and potatoes)

First you will need to make the ‘dry mix’ – this is the base for your cheesy sauce. You’ll need a small food processor, grinder or blender to get the nice powdery results -simply place all of the dry ingredients in your machine and blitz until you have a yellow-tinted powder. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and steam/boil the diced vegetables for about ten minutes or until tender (if using).

While the pasta and veg are cooking, you can get on with making the sauce. Measure out the milk in a jug and add a splash to a saucepan along with the entire dry mixture. Stir together over a low heat until it starts to thicken and just keep adding the milk a little at a time until you’ve used it all up. Now add the cooked veg and blitz with a hand blender until you have a nice smooth, creamy sauce. If you haven’t added any cooked veg, you will need to add an extra 100-150ml milk to make the sauce a good consistency.

Now you can stir in the cooked pasta and peas (if using) plus any other extras you might want to chuck in – I cooked too much carrots/potatoes for the sauce so I added them at the end. Transfer to a baking dish – one that holds about 1.5 litres is fine. Scatter some halved cherry tomatoes and chopped baguette/bread and add a little drizzle of olive oil. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the bread looks golden and serve immediately.


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