PUMPKIN MAC & CHEESE
I wrote a post a while back about my feelings about plant-based mac & cheese, it went something like this...
A favorite of many, mac & cheese is the ultimate comfort food. When I went plant-based I didn’t think about how I would no longer be able to enjoy this classic dish. While there are ultra-processed forms that I can now buy in a box at the grocery store, I wanted to come up with something that is plant powered and delicious! I did some recipe testing in my food science lab at my college to discover the perfect flavor combination and texture for the sauce.
While some people will forever say “it’s not Mac & cheese if there is no cheese!” Or “that literally doesn’t taste like cheese!” It is the experience for me, eating something so creamy and comforting that is beyond satisfying. Even if it doesn’t taste exactly like a creamy powdered cheese from a box, it tastes like I need my version of Mac & Cheese to taste. So there. If you enjoy it, who cares.
With that out of the way, THIS Mac & Cheese is by far one of the best ones that I have made. I used my usual recipe and added a can of pureed pumpkin. I read something recently about pumpkin in recipes and that it actually doesn't have a ton of flavor on it's own, the spices and seasonings tend to carry it. This is true in this recipe as well, the sauce remains creamy, salty, and "cheesy" if I may, with subtle pumpkin undertones. The pumpkin even gives it a more velvety texture that usual and may change how I make my mac & cheese for good! I hope you enjoy another fall inspired recipe. As always let me know if you try it.
PUMPKIN MAC & CHEESE RECIPE
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 box of pasta of choice *
3 medium/ small gold potatoes, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 can of pumpkin *
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 cup cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt (plus to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 - 3/4 cup bread crumbs *
Fresh parsley for garnish
Cook Pasta according to box instructions
In a small pot boil about 4-6 cups of water then add diced potato, onion, carrot, and the cashews. Let cook for about 15 minutes or until potato and carrot can be easily pierced with a fork. (Strain mixture but SAVE THE WATER).
In a high speed blender or food processor combine the strained potato mixture, all of the spices, nutritional yeast, and pumpkin. Add about 1/2 of a cup of the water from the potato mix to start. Blend on high adding in about 1 tbsp of water at a time as needed till you get a thick and creamy consistency. Season to taste.
Add pasta and pumpkin sauce to casserole dish* or cast iron skillet.
Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes then broil for 5 minutes or until top is golden brown. Enjoy:)
*For the pasta I prefer something that has good sauce carrying capabilities like shells, penne, or orecchiette. I have also used whole wheat and chickpea pastas for this type of casserole. Whole wheat tends to break a bit easier when you serve it, but if you don't mind I think it tastes great! As for chickpea pasta it definitely holds it's shape and makes this recipe a bit more filling.
*For the breadcrumbs I used 1.5 pieces of Daves Killer Bread and toasted them twice so they were nice and crispy. Then I threw them in a food processor with some dried Italian herbs, salt & pepper and pulsed till my desired consistency.
*For the pumpkin make sure that when you are buying canned that the ONLY ingredient in the can is pumpkin! You don't want any additives or spices.
*If you want a taller casserole use a smaller dish or dutch oven, and increase the baking time to 20-25 minutes. Because I used a large cast iron skillet mine was only about 2 inches deep and didn't require that much time in the oven.
I hope you enjoyed this fall inspired pumpkin mac & cheese. While this recipe is definitely the main event, I like to serve with some barbecue marinated tofu or tempeh, and roasted broccoli or sautéed greens for a little extra nutrition :) But trust me there are definitely times when I will have a heaping bowl of this by itself. To each there own.