This butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is cozy, comforting, rich, “cheesy” and healthy-ish? Well, it is filled with tons of disguised veggies blended together into deliciousness. The breaded top adds a nice crunchy texture that is oh-so-yummy when combined with the creaminess of the mac and cheese sauce.
You can use gluten-free bread crumbs for the topping or a mix of 1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, pulsed together in the food processor until crumbly. The pasta water adds starchiness that helps thicken it up the sauce in lieu of the traditional flour.
I like to go all out comfort food and serve this mac and cheese with roasted broccoli with a squeeze of lemon and some red pepper flakes. Served a la carte or accompanied by a side dish of your choice, you can’t go wrong!
Butternut Squash Mac & “Cheese”
Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free
12 oz. gluten-free elbows or shells (*I prefer the Jovial brand)
1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 tablespoons avocado or neutral cooking oil
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 cup vegan butter or butter of choice, plus more for sauteing (*I prefer Myokos brand)
1/4 cup cashews soaked in boiling hot water for up to 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons nutritonal yeast
1 cup reserved pasta water for sauce
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (*be careful of adding too much salt, as the pasta water adds quite a bit when mixed with the sauce)
1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs or a mixture of 1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, processed until crumbly
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pour boiling water over the cashews and let soak for up to 30 minutes. Toss the peeled and cubed butternut squash with oil and salt and pepper to taste; cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender and golden.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the instructions, reserving a generous cup of the pasta water. Meanwhile saute the onion on medium heat with a tablespoon or two of “butter” until translucent and soft; about 5-7 minutes.
Rinse and drain the soaked cashews. In a high speed blender, combine the butternut squash, onions, cashews, dijon mustard, turmeric, nutritional yeast, pepper to taste and 1 cup of the pasta water; blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Pour the sauce into the pot and stir in the noodles.Transfer everything to a baking dish or cast iron skillet. Top with bread crumbs of choice and broil for a few minutes until the top is lightly browed and crispy. Serve with red pepper flakes and perhaps some roasted broccoli with a squeeze of lemon.
photos: Mary Bell