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Vegan "Mac and Cheese" with Butternut Squash and Crispy Cauliflower

Description

This creamy and comforting pasta dish is a vegan take on the classic macaroni and cheese. The roasted butternut squash adds natural sweetness, while the crispy cauliflower provides a satisfying crunch.

Cuisine: Comfort Food-inspired Vegan Fusion
Servings: 4 - 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound macaroni
  • Butternut squash puree (see below)
  • Vegan mac and cheese sauce (see below) or store-bought
  • Crispy cauliflower florets (see below)

Butternut Squash Puree

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Crispy Cauliflower Florets

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Vegan Mac and Cheese Sauce

Making a vegan mac and cheese sauce can be a bit tricky, but I've got a simple recipe that uses a combination of plant-based ingredients to create a creamy and delicious sauce. Here's how to do it:

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (such as soy or almond milk)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Instructions

Cheese Sauce:

  1. Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the cashews, then add them to a blender with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy. 
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the vegan butter over low heat.
  4. Add the non-dairy milk, flour, and nutritional yeast to the melted vegan butter. Whisk until smooth and well combined.
  5. Gradually add the cashew mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  6. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly. 
  7. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly before using in your macaroni dish.

Tips and Variations

  • To make a creamier sauce, you can add an extra tablespoon or two of cashews to the blender with the lemon juice, etc.
  • If you don't have nutritional yeast, you can omit it or substitute it with an extra tablespoon or two of flour.
  • You can also add some garlic powder or onion powder to the sauce for added flavor. 
  • For a lighter-colored sauce, you can add a splash of non-dairy milk towards the end of cooking time.

Mac & Cheese:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions.
  3. Prepare the butternut squash puree by roasting the squash cubes in the oven until tender, then blending with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Make the vegan mac and cheese sauce according to package instructions or recipe.
  5. Assemble the dish by combining cooked macaroni, butternut squash puree, and vegan mac and cheese sauce.
  6. Top with crispy cauliflower florets.

Matching Wines

For this dish, we would recommend a white wine that complements the creamy pasta and sweet squash flavors. Here are a few options:

Chardonnay: This buttery and oaky white wine from France is known for its flavors of apple, pear, and vanilla.
Pinot Grigio: A light-bodied Pinot Grigio with flavors of green apple, pear, and citrus would also pair nicely.
Sauvignon Blanc: This crisp and refreshing white wine from France is known for its flavors of grapefruit, lime, and grassy notes.