While I'm not 100% sure if your mama actually did make you Mac n Cheese, if she did, I'm willing to take a wager that this version would come out on top. I mean, creamy, comforting, cheesy, goodness, that at the same time keeps all your trillions of cells (and your in-house nutritionist) jumping with joy? I've always been a mad mac 'n' cheese fiend, and have tried many different healthified versions over the years. Every time though, this little number keeps coming back as #1.
Yes, this Best Ever Macaroni Cheese is...
I didn't even get to mention the crunchy topping. Move over breadcrumbs and parmesan!
I'm fairly sure that you are going to love this one, and your mama too. Grab yourself some ingredients, give it a whirl, and in a few short minutes you'll have yourself this delicious one pan wonder. Just ask the fam to bring the salad.
So, what makes me think this mac 'n' cheese might be better than your mum's? I know it's an audacious claim, so to back it up I've got a few reasons why...
First up – it’s vegan. That means no animal products, no milk, no cheese, no butter, and certainly no sneaky bacon bits floating around. But don’t fret, we are going to replace all that flavour with so much more, and all made from 100% plant-based whole food ingredients. Are you excited yet? I am. Let’s dig in!
Second claim to fame is it's gluten free. I know gluten free is all the rage right now, and whilst I don’t recommend a gluten free diet as a stand alone concept (the vast majority of purportedly ‘gluten free’ products out there are pretty horrific from a nutritional perspective), I am all for you reducing your refined white flour intake and replacing it with a selection of more whole food whole grain alternatives. By whole grain I mean all three layers of the grain – endosperm, germ and bran. In simple terms, just look out for whole grain, whole wheat, or brown when you’re choosing your pastas. In this recipe I’ve used these delightful red rice macaroni elbows here. The red rice has just the right amount of density to feel grounded, whilst still retaining the light fluffiness of a traditional white wheat pasta. Divine.
Thirdly, and continuing on our gluten free theme – the topping. Oh my – sunflower seeds encased in a cheesy sprinkle of nutritional yeast, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, which bakes up to be gloriously golden and crunchy on top. You might just want to make double of the topping it’s so good. So no need for gluten free breadcrumbs or otherwise here.
Finally, and most excitingly – it’s jam packed with vegetables and light on the calorie scale. Whilst you might have tried a dairy free/vegan macaroni cheese before, it no doubt will have been made with white wheat pasta drenched in a rich cashew sauce. Delicious no doubt, but fairly limited in terms of antioxidant, phytonutrient, flavonoid and polyphenol vegetable content. And also pretty heavy on the waistline. This version is a vegetable-loving-revelation in terms of the cheesey sauce ingredient list. Hint - there's a secret vege ingredient in there - read on my friend do!
Before today's find, I had previously made a number of vegan mac n cheeses, all using a cashew based sauce. I had also made a number of cauliflower cheese bakes using a similar method – both being recreations of two childhood favourites of mine. It was only recently that I thought, hang on, what if instead of the traditional highly cashew-rich sauce, I combine the two recipes, but blend up the cauliflower to create the sauce itself. Oh my, was that a good idea! The result is a creamy cheesy sauce that is oh so flavoursome but super light and fluffy at the same time. There will certainly be no feelings of heaviness after this meal. In fact with two large onions, half a large cauliflower, and 2 packed cups of parsley, the finished dish is almost 50% vegetables. Now that’s a positive for both the kids and adults alike. Mila wouldn’t give me her bowl back then proceeded to steal half the portion off my plate too – that means we’re onto a winner!
Cauliflower Takes the Cream
Some quick nutritional notes on cauliflower while we’re at it. Not only is it a super versatile ingredient in your plant-based pantry, being able to go from raw salads (like my Pomegranate Cauliflower Couscous here), to a creamy hearty mash (in my Italian Meatballs here), to today’s brilliant creamy pasta sauce, it also contains a whopping 52mg of vitamin C. That’s over 115% of your recommended daily intake (both ladies and gents). Imagine that – a single cup of cauli and all your vitamin C requirements done! No oranges needed. Research also shows that the vitamin C content in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, is almost all retained when lightly steamed as I've done in this recipe. That’s in contrast to boiling or microwaving, where up to 30-40% of the vit C can be lost.
Back onto that sauce – the white pepper gives it just the right amount of kick, without taking away from the core flavours of a traditional macaroni cheese, while the mustard, nutritional yeast and sea salt round everything out to give you a classic cheesy yet refined and elegant flavour. Mila even loved it in this original peppery form, so if you’ve got little ones, no need to modify the recipe there.
That’s it. Go do it. You know you want to. All your mac n cheese cravings to be met in a single hearty pan. Oh did I mention? Only 12 ingredients and it takes a mere 25 minutes to make. Under my self-imposed 30 minute maximum for a mid week dinner, which I know you’ll appreciate after your busy days too.
I would absolutely love you to give this glorious Macaroni Cheese a go, and would love to hear how you go. Leave me a comment below or post a pic on Instagram and tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics. I could eat this dish for days on end, so can't wait to hear what you think too!
That's it, signing off for this week. To the weekend, and our good friends Mac and Cheese.
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Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese
1/2 large cauliflower, including stalk (approx. 420g) + 2c pasta/cauli cooking water
2 large onions (diced)
6 cloves garlic (sliced)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 c cashews
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white pepper
2 c fresh parsley (packed)
c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon
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