Nine years is a long time to go without a childhood favorite. Comfort food that evokes the warmest, coziest memories, even if it did come out of a blue box and was composed of more chemicals than you might find in the average chemistry set. Something about that simple amalgamation of noodles and cheese-product sauce managed to reach the farthest corners of my young brain, imprinting a deep appreciation for the day-glow orange noodles. Sure, I’ve since had numerous non-dairy renditions, some even quite good and worthy of recommendation, but none were quite right. Some unidentifiable piece of the puzzle remained lost, that “perfect” mac and cheese just beyond my reach.
Every vegan and their mother and best friend has a unique formula for creating their ideal mac, so it was one of those things I simply didn’t pursue. There were enough recipes that came close enough; why keep picking on something so close?
But then, there was the mac that changed everything. Assigned by VegNews to shoot their signature macaroni and cheese, as formulated by Allison Samson of Allison’s Gourmet, it was admittedly the first time I had ever made or eaten an oven-baked casserole version of the classic dish. That first bite was just short of transcendent- And even more so if you consider that fact that the original recipe included absolutely no nutritional yeast. A potato-based sauce, standing in for rich, cheesy-creamy-goodness? You bet.
And thus, my macaroni quest began.
Drawn back to my memories of simple stove-top mac, my first adaptation was to lose the casserole dish and bread crumbs. Feel free to add both back into the equation, as I was definitely impressed by how much those crispy edges added to the mix; it’s merely a matter of personal preference.
Naturally, I couldn’t keep away from the nooch, what with it’s delicious umami notes and undeniably “cheesy” essence.
Rich, but not unctuous or artery-clogging, this is perhaps as close to perfection as I’ve tasted in nine years or more. Creamy, very saucy (who hasn’t wished those boxes made about twice as much sauce?), bright but natural orange in hue, this is the mac I’ve been craving all along. That long awaited reunion tasted even better than I had hoped!
Vegan Stove Top-Style Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Allison River Samson’s VegNews Macaroni and Cheese
1 Cup Peeled and Diced Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/4 Cup Shredded or Finely Diced Carrot
1/2 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion
1 Clove Garlic, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Tumeric (Optional, for Color)
3/4 – 1 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/3 Cup Neutral-Flavored Oil, Such as Canola or Rice Bran
1 Pound Pasta, Cooked*
*I’m rather fond of tiny spirals or twists here, but elbows are more traditional. Any shape you’ve got, other than long spaghetti, pretty much works though.
Place the cut potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic in a small sauce pan, and pour in the water. Set over medium heat on the stove, and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a vigorous boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are extremely tender.
Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients to speed things along. Place the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, mustard, lemon juice, paprika, and tumeric (if using) in your blender. A high-speed blender is recommended for the best results, but you can also use an ordinary machine as long as you have patience. Give these ingredients a light pulse just to begin breaking down the cashews slightly.
When the vegetables on the stove are fully cooked and ready, pour them into your blender along with all of the cooking water. Add in 3/4 cup of the non-dairy milk, and turn on the blender to its highest setting. Thoroughly puree the mixture, until completely smooth and lump-free. If you’re using a blender that isn’t so hearty, this could take 6 – 10 minutes. With the motor still running, slowly drizzle in the oil, to allow it to properly emulsify. Check the consistency; if you like your sauce a bit thinner blend in the remaining 1/4 of non-dairy milk.
Pour the sauce over your cooked noodles, and serve immediately.
Makes 6 – 8 Servings