If you search online or on Pinterest for vegan macaroni cheese recipes, you will find many based on pumpkin in place of cheese. This is a great way to up your daily vegetable count but I wanted to create a recipe that also contained a decent vegan protein source so I have added cashew cream and flax seed to my version of the recipe, as well as nutritional yeast which is commonly used in vegan dishes to give sauces a cheesy, nutty flavour.
My take on “mac n cheese” is one of the healthiest versions you can get. While the standard version is dripping in harmful saturated fat and cholesterol; this version contains beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It is high in fibre, contains a vegetable portion per serving, and is rich in beneficial vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and magnesium. For the healthiest version, opt for wholewheat pasta, or even try an alternative like lentil pasta (available in the Free From isle of most bigger supermarkets) – you might not get it in a macaroni shape but it will add a further protein source to the dish while also being low GI, as well as gluten-free.
Here in the UK we tend to eat a mountain of pasta on its own or, worse still served with chips or roast potatoes. Avoid the double carbs – to make this a healthy, balanced meal, serve your “mac n cheese” with plenty of steamed greens like broccoli, kale and/or green beans.
Do you have a nut allergy? No problem, you can still make the dish by skipping the cashew cream. Just add some more (nut free) plant milk in its place.
Makes 4 portions as part of a meal
- One small–medium pumpkin or one butternut squash
- 200g pasta – I recommend red lentil pasta (from the free from isle of bigger supermarkets)
- 1 cup of cashews – soaked in cold water for 4-12 hours
- 2 tbsp. ground flax seed
- 4 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (from a health food store)
- ¼ cup of plant milk, e.g. soya, cashew or oat
- ½ teaspoon of mustard (English or wholegrain)
- Optional spices – ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, black pepper, and/or chilli
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 Celsius
- Stab the pumpkin / squash a couple of times with a knife and place on a baking tray in the oven
- Bake until soft – it will likely take about an hour
- Once it is soft, remove from oven and leave to cool, leave the oven on for later
- Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions while you are preparing the sauce
- Drain and rinse the cashews and place in a blender or food processor.
- Add the plant milk and blend until smooth
- Once your pumpkin / squash is cooled, chop into quarters, scoop out the seeds and remove the peel. Discard (or save for eating with other things).
- Add the pumpkin / squash, spices, mustard, salt and half the nutritional yeast flakes to the blender and blend again until smooth
- Drain the pasta when cooked and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
- Add your pumpkin sauce and combine well with the pasta
- Sprinkle over the rest of the nutritional yeast flakes and ground flax seed
- Cook in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the topping is slightly crispy