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MacNCheese 1

I don’t think I need to write a long preamble to mac and cheese.

When I talk about plant-based food, typically its not meat that people panic most about. Its CHEESE. Pizza, Parmesan, Mac and Cheese. The fromage triumvirate. “Oh, I could never give those up!” People declare, wide-eyed, head back, almost poised to shield themselves from a physical blow. This is when I usually just get dismissed as “one of those.” Fringe. Granola. Anything I say from this point on will be met with a “who’s the crazy?” look.

Cheese is usually the line that is drawn between vegetarians and its mainlining subculture from the planet Vegus. Vegans. Gasp. Vegans.

Why is it so hard?

Have you ever heard of morphine? Sure, well, then let me talk about its cousin casomorphines. From Le Wikipedia: “Casomorphines are protein fragments in cheese, derived from the digestion of milk protein. The distinguishing characteristic of casomorphins is that they have an opioid effect.” Need I say more?

That’s why wine and cheese parties are pure awesome. Everyone just gets on the right side of inebriation and levity.

So it’s a legal drug, right up there with sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Fun stuff. But also, while the effects are not, um, pharmaceutical grade, they are still the same reactions that your brain goes through. With possibly similar cumulative consequences. Compound that with the other issues implicated and associated with dairy such as contributing to cholesterol levels, congestion, joint pain, migraines and digestive challenges. Now that’s really fun stuff. You don’t want to mess with that. So, really, if you cannot imagine cutting it out of your diet, you don’t have to have it everyday, either.

And to help with that, I offer up to you a mac and cheese that I SWEAR you will love. This is slight modification of VegNews Mac and Cheese which I worship because it uses no nutritional yeast. Yep, nutritional yeast. While I use nutritional yeast and think it is amazing, we are talking about defiling one of the pillars of modern civilization here people. So let’s do it gently! I won’t go postal with you on substitutions either. There is no soy and no fake cheese. This version uses ingredients familiar to everyone and available in every grocery store. I’ve amped it up by adding more garlic (because I just always do that) and offering different ways to jazz it up and make it more “gourmet” to impress even your most valiantly omnivorous foodie friends. As one of mine said, “its so good its almost Velveeta!” Oxymoronish but I get it.

MacNCheese 2

Mackin’ Cheese

(Ersatz and Enjoyable all at the same time)
Serves 6 but I ALWAYS double this. Because, well, why not?
Based on VegNews’ Macaroni and Cheese

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon sea salt
8 ounces macaroni or penne pasta

4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup water

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance soy-free)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika

In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.

Gourmetzations:
– drizzle with truffle oil right before serving
– Add some finely chopped spinach or kale when you toss the sauce and noodles together
– Add chopped garlic and some garlic powder to the breadcrumb mixture to make a garlicky topping
– Top with minced chives and/or parsley
– If you want a smoky flavor, add ¼ tsp of smoked Spanish paprika to the sauce mixture
– Saute leeks AND leek greens and fold into the sauce and noodle mixture

MacNCheese 1 (1)

30 Responses to “Hack the Mac!”

  1. GF/SF/V Coco Puff

    I am making this TONIGHT and will post my “results” here … this is the HOLY GRAIL of mac & cheese! I’ve always thought of mac & cheese as disgusting … of course, I’ve been a plant-based eater since I was 15, so it figures…

    Reply
    • GF/SF/V Coco Puff

      Made it a THIRD time for a potluck for a bunch of picky meat eaters … thank god the pan was glass, because they would’ve eaten that too if they could! I love the variations — this time did the parsley on top and chopped kale very very finely — delish!

      Reply
  2. Kristen Lane

    Oooooh looks yummy! I just bought some whole wheat elbow macaroni so I’m going to try it.

    Do you know where I can find the nutritional information? It’s not on the VegNews site either and I’m too lazy to dissect it.

    Reply
  3. Leah

    Hi Kristen! Below the recipe title is a link to the VegNews site with the recipe! :) Tell me how it goes!

    Reply
  4. Jenneta

    Made this for weekend brunch, the fam loved it. Leyla asked to make Leah’s mac&cheese again just yesterday.

    Reply
  5. Cassi

    A resounding YUM! The only modification that I made to your recipe was the exclusion of the onions. Both G and V have a deep dislike of onions and while I suspected that they wouldn’t even know they were included, I decided to play it safe. I also made it with shells instead of macaroni. I’m not allowed to use those next time because, ” Mom this pasta looks like beetles. It creeps me out”.

    Reply
  6. jenn

    i want to know more about the lack of nutritional yeast….i’m new to the whole dairy free thing and just wonderin. thx.

    Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Jenn – i noted the lack of nutritional yeast because it’s not something that most people typically have in their pantry but it should be Ok to add to a dairy-free diet :)

      Reply
  7. Katy Rank Lev

    I’ve made this a few times now and it’s DELICIOUS. i wonder what I might be doing “wrong,” though, since mine never seems to get as creamy as Jayda’s version. I mean, hers was indistinguishable from actual cheese sauce, whereas mine is still pretty chunky. Gritty? Do I need more water? Am I adding too much potato?

    Reply
    • Leah

      Yum! Hmmmm. You may not be blending it long enough…try running the blender longer see if that is what it is. The potato should not be making it gritty unless it is undercooked?

      Reply
  8. Judi

    A friend turned me on to your website and I LOVE this recipe!! Thanks so much

    Reply
  9. Colin

    I made this recipe for a moderately famous touring band and they ate the entire pan before going back out on the road. They loved it! I’ve made it several times since then, and even my red meat loving brother ate a full plate of it.

    Reply
  10. Ed K

    I just got done surprising my wife with this. She loved it and so did I! I can’t wait to make it again for some of our non-vegan family members. I can’t imagine that they won’t love it too. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Leah

      I have to say, this is THE SAUCE. Tell no one what is in it. I instruct my kids that when we bring it to potlucks! :)

      Reply
  11. Judi

    Hi there, I have been making your mac and cheese recipe for awhile now and LOVE it…but usually when I make it for my family I use regular bread crumbs for the top as we are all ok with that. I want to take it to a function next week and know of at least one person that is celiac that is attending. I would like to make it friendly for her as well. I don’t however, want to buy an entire loaf of bread for a few crumbs!! Do you think ground cashews would be good on top or what would you suggest to give it that toasty, crunchy added bonus…thanks! Jude

    Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Judi! There are GF bread crumbs available at Giant Eagle, Whole Foods and the Co-op but YES ground cashews would work — just watch that they don’t burn! :)

      Reply
  12. Marsha Hall

    Recipe sounds really good..replaced with butter/ghee from grass fed cows. Why would anybody use fake butter? Margarine is indigestable, the liver can’t process it and it’s just wrong…i.e ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’…because it isn’t!! Pure lard, pure butter make a body happy.

    Reply
    • Leah

      Fair point Marsha! When I first started this blog, my mission was to get everyone to eat more vegetables (waaay more) — not necessarily to become vegan or vegetarian. This recipe was my first post and I thought an amazing replacement for cheese (especially fake cheese that boxed mac and cheese uses). But as I continued to write, I have been eliminating highly processed ingredients. SO — long story short — I agree with you. The butter used would still be much much less dairy if cheese were used.

      However, for vegans, this is an acceptable substitute. I have it in my to do to see how it would taste if I sub all olive oil with some nut cream! Will keep you postd — and thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  13. Laura

    I just made the sauce….don’t have any pasta in the house so I’m cooking up some rice to mix with the “cheese” and broccoli for a casserole. Meanwhile, I can’t stop sneaking little spoonfuls of the sauce! It’s delicious all by its lonesome, so I can’t wait to taste the finished casserole.

    THANK YOU so much for this recipe. I just went vegan last month and I have been missing my mac! I tried another vegan mac & cheese that used nutritional yeast and thought it was just awful…nothing at all like the real thing. Your recipe is EXACTLY what I was hoping to find!

    From a hungry Yinzer who is impatient for my rice to cook :-)

    Reply

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