Baked Roasted Red Pepper Mac'N Cheese

If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one food for the rest of my life, it would be mac’n cheese. Hands. Down.  No questions asked.

Mac’n cheese is such a beautiful symphony of all my favorite things: gooey cheese, starchy pasta and salty butter.  My mom used to make an amazing baked mac’n cheese from scratch, which set the bar pretty high, so finding a vegan version of this dish that met my critical “mac’n cheese palate” was no easy task.

And then in sauntered miss Isa Chandra Moskowitz, celebrated vegan food blogger and recipe genius, to save the day.  I stumbled across her Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese in her recent cookbook, Isa Does It, and it was love at first sight.  It was the perfect “Kraft orange” colored cheese sauce that I had been looking for, but without all the processed chemicals!

Plus who doesn’t love roasted red peppers?!

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ lb macaroni or other small pasta
  • ¾ cups unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1½ tablespoons organic cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade)
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1½ teaspoons pizza seasoning (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat a 2 quart sauce pot over medium heat. Saute onions in oil with a pinch of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so, then transfer to a blender or food processor.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water for cooking the pasta. Once boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Drain the cashews and add them to the blender along with the vegetable broth, corn starch, nutritional yeast, red peppers, tomato paste, pizza seasoning, salt, mustard and turmeric. Blend until very smooth. Scrape down the sides every 30 seconds or so and test for smoothness.
  4. Transfer the sauce in the blender back to the sauce pot where you cooked the onions. Turn the heat up to medium and let cook, stirring very often, until thickened. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes. Taste for salt. It should taste slightly salty because you’re going to be pouring it on the pasta.The pasta should be done while the sauce is thickening, so drain and place pasta back in the pot you cooked it in. Set aside.
  5. When sauce is thickened, add it to the pasta in the pot, and use a large slotted spoon to mix well, taking care not to break the pasta. Serve!

NOTES

- If you don’t have any pizza seasoning laying around, simply use these spices: ¼ teaspoon fennel seed or ground fennel, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic)

- You can make this a baked mac, if you prefer! Transfer the whole shebang to an 8×8 casserole and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

- If you forgot to soak the cashews, have no fear. You can boil them for the same creamy effect, and still have this on the table in 30 minutes. Just submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, and proceed.

 

This dish came out beautiful and if you like the cheese more “saucy” then follow the recipe as -is.  I decided to bake it in the oven, see recipe notes above, so it got a nice crisp top.  If you bake it the cheese sauce firms up a bit in the oven so it will be less like a Kraft sauce texture and more like that of mom’s baked Mac.

I took this dish to a party this past Sunday for the Superbowl, and it was a huge hit – both with the vegans and the non-vegans!  The dish was completely licked clean within an hour.  I think we have a winner!!

SidesAlicia Uhl