I am a mac and cheese connoisseur.
My love affair began when I was first introduced to that little blue box filled with elbow shaped pasta and a crazy looking orange powder. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was one of the first things my mom taught me how to "cook." It was better cheesy living through chemistry. Later on, in my college years, I discovered the beauty that was Velveeta Shells and Cheese. What's not to love about gooey cheese-like sauce squeezed out of a foil packet that didn't need to be refrigerated? It was creamy goodness.
As an adult, I was introduced to a variety of new cheesy pasta love, mac and cheeses of all varieties: truffled, Stilton, smoked cheddar with bacon. You name it, I ate it.
And then I realized how so not good for you it is.
So in the spirit of healthier eating, I thought I would play around with the ultimate comfort food to see what I could come up with. Granted, nothing takes the place of real cheese (or even real fake cheese food like Velveeta), but its a delicious substitute that will satisfy the mac and cheese craving.
No Cheese Mac & Cheese
Nutritional yeast and earthy cauliflower combined with a puree of almonds provide a tasty alternative to real cheese. I add the tender outside leaves of Brussels sprouts for a little bit of color and texture.
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups butternut squash (approximately one medium sized squash)
1 cup almonds, blanched
2 cloves garlic
1 cup water
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
1 lb whole wheat pasta (shells, macaroni, penne)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, outer leaves only (optional)
Place cauliflower, squash, garlic, garlic, and thyme in a large stock pot. Cover with water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until a fork slides easily into the vegetables, about 15 minutes. Drain thoroughly and discard thyme bundle.
In a food processor, puree blanched almonds and water until smooth, about five minutes. Add cooked vegetables and garlic and process until smooth. Add mustard, nutritional yeast, paprika, and nutmeg. Pulse to combine.
Cook pasta according to the directions on the box, taking off a couple of minutes so the pasta is just under al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain pasta. Return pasta to pot. Add squash puree to pasta and stir to combine. Thin sauce by slowly adding the pasta water until you have achieved the desired consistency. Stir is blanched Brussels sprout leaves, if using. Serve with a sprinkle of nooch.