When I was younger, I used to think mac ‘n’ cheese was the best.thing.ever.
I used to have this obsession with everything American (fruit roll ups? pop tarts? gimme it all!) and those boxes of kraft mac ‘n’ cheese were gold to me. Probably because back home in Brazil they weren’t common at all, so when someone did bring some back from their travels it was a huge deal!
Nowadays I know better than to eat something that has a shelf life longer than me, so I wanted to create something delicious and creamy that wasn’t full of nasties. I used a buckwheat penne, and it’s even topped with cauliflower instead of breadcrumbs, so this version is completely gluten free (but still tastes amazing I promise!)
I used butternut squash and cashews as base for my sauce, which makes it incredibly creamy and gives it such a beautiful colour. I’ve also added some nutritional yeast, and it’s not weird at all I promise you! It’s an inactive yeast, so it won’t transform your sauce into a bakery, and it’s actually got a great nutty and cheese-y taste, which I love.
To balance out the slight sweetness of the squash we’re going to add some smoked paprika and cayenne, which just gives it an awesome slightly smoky taste!
With the cauliflower crumbs on top, you could bake it or simply serve straight away. I also made the sauce the night before and simply assembled when I was ready to eat!
This recipe yields more sauce than you’ll need for this dish, so store any leftovers in an jar in the fridge for up to one week. It’s delicious as a dip or added to soups! Get creative and use it in anything and everything. Waste not!
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or dried thyme works as well)
½ cup (50g / 125ml) cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1 cup (250 ml) water*
½ tablespoon dijon mustard
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric
salt + pepper
For the Pasta
200g pasta (I used gluten free buckwheat penne)
1 cup (100g / 250 ml) frozen peas
Handful kale leaves
2 cups (120g / 4oz /500ml) cauliflower rice**
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp dried herbs of choice (I used italian)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Preheat your oven to 175ºC/350ºF and line a tray with baking paper.
Chop your butternut squash into small cubes, smash your garlic cloves (don't bother peeling), add your thyme leaves, and spices. Toss everything together with the coconut oil and bake for 20-30 minutes or until squash is soft.
Once squash is cooked and cooled add to a food processor with the drained cashews, mustard, yeast, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the garlic out of their skin and also add to the processor.
Blitz while slowly adding the water. You want all the ingredients to blend and become a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Cook the pasta according to instructions.
On the last 2 minutes of cooking, add in frozen peas and kale leaves.
Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
Mix together all the ingredients and bake for 5-7 minutes in 175ºC/350ºF, taking care not to burn. If your oven has the option, use the broiler in your oven so it gets nice and crispy.
Simply mix your pasta with the sauce, adding some reserved pasta water if you think it needs some thinning down.
Add to an oven-safe dish (if baking) and sprinkle your cauliflower crumbs on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes and serve immediately!
*If you're not making the sauce ahead, try to use the leftover pasta water for extra flavour!
**To make cauliflower rice simply pulse the florets in a food processor until small and grain-like. Alternatively you could also hand grate it!
Definitely much better than the mac and cheese out of a cardboard box!
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Hi, I'm Teffy, a qualified Nutritionist and avid foodie. This blog is all about inspiring a balanced life through delicious and wholesome foods, with not a diet in sight. Healthy eating shouldn't be hard and stressful, it should be easy and fun - Working with my clients they are constantly amazed that yes, food can taste great AND be good for you!