Ah, how dreamy to have a delicious, warm, comforting bowl of mac and cheese... and to have it be vegan, cholesterol free, pretty healthy, and have a punch of protein in there too! This is one of my all time favorite recipes. I've been working on this recipe throughout my years of being vegan. Tweaking here and there, adding more of things, taking away unnecessary things, and making it as simple and delicious as possible. This recipe is also great because it's been a big hit amongst my dairy eating friends, they've had zero complaints that there was no real cheese, and many requests for more servings. I recommend you try this for your family, and even test is out on a few people to see if they can even tell thats it's vegan. Most likely they will have no idea it's dairy-free and they will absolutely be asking for more.
3/4 to 1 cup carrots - roughly chopped
1 small onion (about 3/4 cup) - roughly chopped
1 cup butternut squash - roughly chopped/cubed
1 1/2 cup potatoes roughly chopped/cubed (preferably of the creamy or red variety, but if all you have is a standard idaho, thats fine too, just not preferred)
1/2 cup raw cashews (raw, whole or pieces. I buy whatever is cheaper-- usually pieces)
1 cup nutritional yeast(check your local natural food store or whole foods. almost always they will have it in the bulk bin section, where its substantially cheaper)
1/2 stick (about 6 tablespoons) vegan butter (we love earth balance) Optional: plan to set aside one table spoon for bread crumb topping.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 2 cloves garlic
a pinch of cayenne (optional)
bread crumbs (optional, for topping)
smoked paprika (optional, for topping, but we all know: in my house, smoked paprika is king)
1 package of your favorite pasta. I'm partial to shells.
In a large pot, combine: potato, carrots, butternut squash, and onion. Fill with enough water to slightly cover the vegetables (about 3 - 3 1/2 cups) and bring to boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Once boiling, lower heat, and allow to simmer, until all the vegetables are soft (about ten to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables)
Prepare pasta as directed on package, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
While your vegetables are simmering, combine: cashews, butter, garlic, lemon juice, and if you choose to use them: cayenne and turmeric. Add a heavy pinch of salt and pepper (you can add more later, after everything is mixed). Puree with immersion blender, vitamix, or food processor. You want to make sure to puree the cashews first because you want them as smooth as possible. Add a bit of the simmering vegetable water to add moisture, if necessary. Blend blend blend. Slowly, begin to add nutritional yeast and a bit more of the vegetable water and continue pureeing. Once the vegetables are ready, begin to combine those too. Add more of the vegetable water, as necessary. Don't just pour everything in all at once. Patience and step taking is key so that you are left with a creamy mixture, and not buttery vegetable soup. More than likely you will end up using all the water anyway, just be sure to add in as necessary. Once everything has been mixed and your "cheesy" sauce has been made, add salt and paper to taste. Remember, there is no salt coming from a packaged cheese product, this is your salt, so don't be afraid of it. Combine "cheese" sauce and pasta and pour into an oven safe casserole dish.
If you'd like, melt the extra butter, mix with breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over mac and cheese with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and a bit more salt.
Cover with tinfoil and bake for ten minutes, or until slightly bubbling around the sides. Uncover and broil for one to two minutes, until breadcrumbs are brown.
Serve hot, and enjoy :)
Sometimes it's just so good that some of it goes missing, before it even get's photographed ;)