Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Baked Macaroni and Cheese: Cheesy Comfort Food Made Vegan

I have been a bit obsessed lately with finding the tastiest vegan cheese sauce, mainly for pasta or a really good vegan macaroni and cheese. It's not that I am vegan (I will label food but not myself), ;-) I just lean heavily toward a meat-free, plant-strong diet and I don't like the way my lungs and body feel after indulging in too much cheesy goodness. Part of the reason I bought Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way, the new cookbook by Chloe Coscarelli, was because of the recipe for "The Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese" contained within. A 25% off coupon and a Barnes & Noble gift certificate led me to the cookbook section. The deal was sealed by this recipe and the recipes for vegan versions of Warm Spinach-Artichoke Dip, Drunken Noodles in Cashew-Shitake Broth, Peanutty Perfection Noodles, Tempeh Piccata, Sea Salt Toffee Bars and Chloe's Award-Winning Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes. (Author-chef Chloe Coscarelli was the first all-vegan baker to win Cupcake Wars on the Food Network.) So yes (hangs head in shame), there is yet another new cookbook in my insanely huge collection.


Enough with the cookbook hoarding confession and back to my cheese sauce / mac 'n cheese obsession. Chloe's recipe is pretty simple, and a thick, cheesy sauce was simmering away on the stove in just a few minutes. The velvety texture of the sauce enveloping the noodles made baking it seem almost a shame, but the crispy breadcrumbs on top (I used an Italian-seasoned panko) made up for the loss in some of that creaminess. Is it "The Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese?" I think more experimenting is in order to determine that, but it is pretty darn good.


Chloe Coscarelli says, "I love the sound of mac ‘n’ cheese. There’s nothing like the sweet sound of suctioning noodles as you mix them with the cheesy sauce. Of course, the taste is even better. Mmmm, brings me back to my childhood when mac ‘n’ cheese gooey goodness was a way of life!" The consistency of this sauce is enhanced by a roux, a mixture of fat and flour that is cooked over low heat until it is bubbling and the raw starchy taste has cooked out. Roux is used to thicken soups, stews, and sauces."


Best-Ever Baked Macaroni and Cheese
From Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli
(Serves 6)

1 pound elbow macaroni
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
3 cups soy, almond, or rice milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch pan.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, make a roux or paste by whisking the margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add nondairy milk, yeast, tomato paste, salt, and garlic powder to the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in lemon juice and agave. Toss noodles with the sauce and transfer to the prepared pan. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Make-Ahead Tip: Unbaked macaroni and cheese can be refrigerated up to 2 days in advance until ready to bake.


Notes/Results: Slightly chewy with a crispy topping and it actually tastes really cheesy. You could serve this non-dairy mac 'n cheese to vegans and carnivores alike with positive results. It's a pretty basic recipe and could also be changed up with some peas, spinach or whatever your favorite veggie is, although I think it is pretty great as is and served with something green--like my vegan Caesar salad with cashew dressing leftovers from lunch. ;-) I followed Chloe's recipe pretty closely, but I did double the bread crumbs on top. If you can find the seasoned panko, I highly recommend using it or seasoning your own panko crumbs as the crispness can't be beat. Who says you can't have cheesy indulgent comfort food on a vegan eating plan, or that you can't branch out on a Meatless Monday and try this lower calorie (1/6 of the large pan--probably about 2 cups worth, clocks in at about 400 calories), lower fat, no cholesterol version of a classic dish even if you are a confirmed meat eater?! I will make this again.


I'm sending this mac 'n cheese to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Alisha of Cook, Craft, Enjoy. Alisha will be rounding up a bunch of truly tasty pasta dishes on her blog on Friday, so stop by and check it out.


Don't forget that my giveaway for the fabulous Joy the Baker Cookbook ends at 11:59 PM tonight. (Tuesday) You can find my review and all the details of how you can enter here.

10 comments:

Joanne said...

How excited about this am I? Absurdly so.  I'm obviously not vegan but any version of mac and cheese that's BETTER for me...I'm all over it!

kat said...

looks really good!

JohannaGGG said...

I am always on the look out for a good vegan mac and cheese - especially as it is now cooling down here and we can start to have oven bakes again - this looks fantastic

Rachel Jagareski said...

I just made a batch of mac and cheese that was vegan that used raw cashews, soaked in warm water for 1 hour and then pulverized in the food processor. Mixed in with those wonderful nutritional yeast flakes and spices and some almond milk, and it was quite tasty.

Deb in Hawaii said...

 I have made a couple cashew based cheese sauces too Rachel and they were also very good. ;-)

Deb in Hawaii said...

 I hope you like it Johanna. I think it is one of the best I have tried so far. ;-)

Deb in Hawaii said...

 Thanks Kat! ;-)

Deb in Hawaii said...

 No need to be a vegan to enjoy it Joanne! ;-)

Anonymous said...

We Loved this recipe. It's the best vegan cheese we've had. Thank you for sharing.

Alex Staff said...

You’ll never fail to satisfy anyone’s taste buds with your recipe, Deb! From that photo, I must say, your macaroni with cheese recipe has a savory blend of taste. Did you know that this is considered an economical dessert? It is only made of inexpensive ingredients, but, the taste is remarkable.