butternut squash mac and cheese

March 24, 2016 ,

When I talk about vegan food wizardry, this is one of the dishes that comes to mind.  Creamy and packed with flavour, this baked macaroni is truly a thing of beauty.  With a crispy bread crumb topping and fresh green vegetables, this mac and cheese is sure to become a staple dish for your dinner table.

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The bright butternut squash gives this dish it’s signature mac and cheese fluorescent orange colour; without the chemicals associated with kraft dinner.  That highlighter orange colour is also an indicator of the carotenoid antioxidants that squash contains, antioxidants that protect the body against cancer and inflammation. This blended sauce is a sneaky way to get a serving of vegetables into even the pickiest of eaters. 

I love to add broccoli and peas to give the macaroni a pop of colour, but you can add any veggies you like.

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Yields: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups butternut squash (about 1 medium squash), peeled, seeds removed, cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp large-flake nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 4 cups dry whole wheat macaroni pasta
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 2 cups green peas
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a 7 by 11-inch casserole dish or pan.

2. Coat the squash cubes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then spread it evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

3. Bake squash for 30 to 35 minutes, until very tender and just starting to brown; remove from the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 350°F.

4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown. Add the coconut milk and 3/4 cup of the almond milk.

5. Whisk in the nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder; whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.

6. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and add the remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk, butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, paprika, lemon juice, and miso. Stir to distribute the ingredients somewhat evenly.

7. Working in batches, transfer to a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.  While blending, remove the top centre insert of your blender lid, and cover with a towel to prevent the hot sauce from exploding.

8. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.  Stir in the pasta and adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well and let cool briefly.

9. Put the pasta in the prepared casserole dish and add the broccoli, peas, and butternut squash sauce.  Stir gently until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

10. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve right away.

Notes:

Adapted from ohmyveggies, check out the original recipe here: ohmyveggies.com

Make it gluten-free: substitute gluten-free macaroni noodles and gluten-free breadcrumbs

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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References:

Nutrition facts from: CRON-O-Meter

Mateljan George Foundation (2016). Squash, winter. Retrieved from: www.whfoods.com

Jayaprakasam B, Seeram NP and Nair MG. Anticancer and antiinflammatory activities of cucurbitacins from Cucurbita andreana. Cancer Lett. 2003 Jan 10;189(1):11-16. 2003 Retrieved from: www.sciencedirect.com