The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)

Growing up I ate a lot of mac and cheese. I mean A LOT. It was possibly my favourite meal ever. I am well aware that mac and cheese can m...

Growing up I ate a lot of mac and cheese. I mean A LOT. It was possibly my favourite meal ever. I am well aware that mac and cheese can mean many different things to different people -- from a neon orange creation out of a box to a truffle laced creamy taste sensation at a fancy restaurant -- and everything in between, I'm sure. Today's recipe is a veganized version of my favourite mac and cheese interpretation -- my mom's baked mac and cheese. 

My mom does not cook often. She doesn't really enjoy it. My dad loves to cook so he made most of my meals as a kid. My mom made a lot of sandwiches, delicious holiday meals and a few key dinners like old school mac and cheese. The kind that's crispy on top, uses big noodles (fussilli or penne with no macaroni in sight), real cheese, milk...the works. Though my mom rarely cooked dinner, it was meals like her mac and cheese that I associate with my childhood. Definitely my favourite meal as a kid. 

As a grown up, I no longer consume dairy products (I am mostly vegan and I am lactose intolerant now). I do however miss the flavour and texture of real cheese. 

You may have noticed I have recently created many cheesy vegan dishes like this lasagna, this pizza, and this burger pizza...What can I say, old habits die hard. I have made many vegan "cheeses" over the years, some good some terrible. Today's recipe doesn't exactly involve one. I made this mac and cheese recipe for me and my husband last weekend on a whim. All last week I had been really enjoying a cauliflower puree (created to mimic the taste and texture of ricotta cheese) on everything from zucchini noodles to homemade pizza. It really worked with everything. It worked so well that I decided to add some sweet potato into the mix to achieve a cheddar colour and bake it with pasta. I'm so glad I did.

This is the best vegan mac and cheese I have ever made to date. It reminds me so much of my mom's real mac and cheese in flavour and texture. Best of all its vegan, gluten-free, loaded with vegetables and fairly low in fat. I attribute the stickiness of the cheese sauce to the pasta water I added to it to make everything hold together better, don't skip the step! 

The BEST Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese (vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, seed-free)
  • 1 bag rotini or penne or rigatoni (brown rice pasta)
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tbsp evoo
Cheesy Sauce:
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato
  • 1.5 cups chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 cup water or non dairy milk (unsweetened plain!)
  • Pinch pink salt
  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp or more garlic powder
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Black pepper (optional)
Boil you pasta in salted water with a dash of oil and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water after the water goes cloudy.  Cook the pasta till all dente (not soft because its going in the oven). Strain and set aside.

Steam your vegetables together until soft. Add to a blender along with other sauce ingredients and puree until totally smooth and creamy. Add more milk or water if necessary and be careful to stop and scrape the sides and blend to ensure its all smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce. Pour your noodles and the rest of the sauce into a big pot along with your al dente pasta and stir together well. Preheat oven to 430F and scrape your pasta into a parchment paper lined lasagne pan, spread out to the sides evenly. Make topping.

Crunchy Topping:
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • Reserved 1/4 cup sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 tomato, chopped small
  • Evoo

Add everything but tomato, evoo and paprika to a blender and pulse to make a rough thick paste. Add in dollops on top of your noodles and spread out like you would spread frosting. Arrange tomato pieces evenly on top and drizzle with a tbsp of evoo. Sprinkle the whole dish with a little paprika. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes then broil (watching to ensure it doesn't burn) for a couple minutes to get a slightly crispy top. Serve with hot sauce or sriracha or ketchup...

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