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
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.