vegan mac and cheese

Vegan Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower and Lentils

I frequently sing in restaurants. I rarely pay attention to the food while I sing, but yesterday my attention kept wandering toward the plates of pasta being served at the tables near me. I don’t eat pasta often these days, but today it called out to me.

When I saw the beautiful cauliflower Mark brought home from the market, I decided on a mac and cheese with a cauliflower-based sauce. The cooked lentils I had in the fridge provided inspiration to up the protein and fiber in the mac and cheese by adding some lentils to the sauce. I hadn’t made a cauliflower-based sauce in quite a while, so I checked a few recipes and then winged it.

I used an Instant Pot for the sauce: it’s soooo much faster and easier. If you don’t have an electronic pressure cooker, steam the cauliflower and onion until very tender, then mix with the other sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes before blending. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid with either water or an unsweetened non-dairy milk. 

I’m not a fan of breadcrumb-topped mac and cheese. If you are, sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top before baking. 

I am a fan of baking the mac and cheese to give it a chewier top layer. If that’s not your thing, or if you want to cut the preparation time a bit, or if you just don’t want to turn on the oven, you can serve the mac and cheese straight from the pot after combining the pasta and sauce.

Ingredients

3 ½ cups cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup cashews
1 cup cooked red or brown lentils
½ onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon miso
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 pound pasta
nutritional yeast for garnish
paprika for garnish

Method

  1. Place cauliflower, onion, lentils, water, cashews, garlic, and miso in the Instant Pot. Stir to combine. The water should not completely cover the other ingredients.
  2. Use the manual setting and cook for 6 minutes, then release the pressure.
  3. Add the mustard and apple cider vinegar to the pot and stir. Allow to cool a few minutes
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta. While you complete the sauce, cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Return the pasta to the pot.
  5. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
  6. Carefully place the sauce ingredients in a blender jar. If you have a large jar, this amount of sauce should fit.
  7. Blend the sauce until it is very smooth. Adjust seasonings.
  8. In the pasta pot, add enough sauce to thoroughly coat the pasta. Some of the sauce will be absorbed during baking, so be generous. I used about 2/3 of the sauce for 1lb of pasta.
  9. Pour the saucy pasta into a baking dish. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top dries out a bit.
  10. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

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