“I could NEVER live without cheese! Cheese is my LIFE!” That was me as a vegetarian. I remember vividly having this conversation with the vegan host at the restaurant I worked at. I told her, “there’s no way I could give up cheese.” And she told me, “Yes, you will when you’re ready.” Well, she was right and I was wrong. I gave up cheese and guess what… I’m still alive!
Do I miss cheese? No. I don’t miss real cheese one bit. I’m actually grossed out by it. What I do miss is the thought of it. Mac & cheese is a childhood favorite. It feels like home. It’s comfort food. The fact that there are options out there that taste just as good but without dairy, and filled with nutritious plant-based ingredients instead is just incredible. I’m blown away EVERYDAY by the recipes I find. This is by far the best mac & “cheese” alternative I have found. I topped it with a crispy baked parmesan cheese substitute. The outcome… Simply scrumptious!
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves minced
Salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used soy)
10 ounces cauliflower floret, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (3 cups)
1 1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1.) Heat coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in nutritional yeast, mustard, tomato paste, garlic, 2 teaspoons of salt, and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in almond milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in cauliflower and cashews, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook partially covered, until cauliflower is very soft and falls apart easily when poked with a fork (about 20 minutes).
2.) Working in batches if necessary, process this cauliflower mixture in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.
3.) Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until nearly tender. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain macaroni and set aside. Transfer the pureed cauliflower mixture to now-empty pot and bring to gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Add drained macaroni and vinegar and cook, stirring constantly, until warmed through and sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Adjust consistency with reserved cooking water as needed, season with salt, pepper and vegan parmesan substitute. Serve immediately.
Vegan Parmesan Substitute: (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup RAW cashews
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons RAW pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped green olives, patted dry
3/4 teaspoon salt
1.) Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Process cashews, nutritional yeast, pine nuts, olives, and salt in food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute.
2.) Spread mixture on rimmed baking sheet in even layer. Bake until mixture is light golden and dry to the touch, about 20 minutes, stirring mixture and rotating pan halfway through baking.
3.) Let mixture cool completely, about 15 minutes. Break apart any large clumps before serving.
**This can be refrigerated for up to one month.