Happy day after Thanksgiving! I enjoyed time with family yesterday, and now today I have the day to catch up on some computer work. The great thing about that is I can stay in my pajamas as long as I like!
This is actually a dish I brought yesterday for my family meal. I may have been taking a risk making up a new recipe to bring to a holiday dinner, but I enjoy mixing it up and trying out new things to share with my family. I put together the first part of it in my house before heading over to finish it off. I think I might change a few things and have a slightly better result making it at home without 3 other things in the oven at the same time, but we always make it work and it turned out well enough to share with you all!
Macaroni and cheese is a fairly common dish on the Thanksgiving table, at least here in the South. Luckily there are any number of ways to make this comforting dish vegan. I opted to come up with my own butternut squash cheezy sauce after cooking up a huge squash to also use in my dessert (I’ll share the rest of the meal in another post). The squash adds some of that typical cheese color, but keeps the nutritional profile a whole lot healthier! I also made my own nut milk out of pecans since that is another traditional Thanksgiving addition. You could easily use any other plant-based milk.
Nutritional yeast is generally the key ingredient in really getting that cheesy flavor, so of course I added some of that into my sauce. My fresh sage plant is doing well enough in the garden to include some of it for an extra level of flavor. It pairs really well with winter squash and smells so deliciously aromatic when cooking. I was really happy with that part of the recipe and how creamy the sauce came out. There really isn’t anything that you can’t make vegan with a little ingenuity and creativity! I rarely use the processed vegan cheezes, but my mom had bought a bag for me to use at our soup swap so I didn’t want to waste any food. I figure using it once a year for a holiday meal won’t hurt. 😉
Vegan Butternut Mac ‘N Cheez
Makes 10-12 servings
- 2 cups cooked & mashed butternut squash
- 1 1/2 cups pecan or other plant-based milk
- 5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 1 tablespoon chickpea flour (can sub another flour to help thicken the sauce)
- 3 sprigs fresh sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 (12-ounce) package macaroni pasta (I used brown rice pasta & they only had fusilli which works, too)
- 1/4 cup each vegan cheddar cheese shreds & bread crumbs to top (if you want to keep it healthier you can omit)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make your cheezy sauce first by placing the squash through the pepper in a high speed blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Next cook your pasta in boiling water for a few minutes less than the package directions. You want to keep your pasta slightly underdone so it does not over cook in the oven.
Drain the pasta then mix together with your sauce. Pour out evenly into a 9×12 inch casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little bit of vegan cheese and bread crumbs if you like for a nice crust on top. Place in the oven uncovered and cook for 30 minutes.
As far as the changes I think I would make next time, I would either bump up the amount of sauce a little bit or cut down on the pasta to make it creamier. The cozy taste and overall feel was fantastic, but to make it really decadent the extra sauce would put it over the top. It was also tough to get the bread crumbs to really toast up since my mom also had a few other things in the oven going making it hard to keep the temperature even. I suppose I could have finished it off under the broiler for a minute or two, but we were hungry! When eating some leftovers today I just added a few splashes of the extra pecan milk to keep it moist. Definitely just as good the next day. 😋