Smoky Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Heaps of warm elbow pasta are coated in a simple, homemade, and plant-powered smoky vegan cheese sauce. The "cheese" is made by blending together raw cashews, a bit of filtered water, roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, arrowroot starch (for thickening), apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, s + p, and a dash of hot sauce (if you're feeling feisty). The mixture is heated for just a few minutes, or until its hot, bubbly, and thickened into a rich cheese sauce. Then, simply spoon it over the pasta, stir to coat, and serve. That's it. Simple vegan homemade mac 'n' cheese in 30 minutes flat!
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
- 12 to 16 ounces brown rice elbow pasta, depending on desired level of cheesiness (I use 12 ounces for a cheesier mac 'n' cheese)
Smoky Cashew Cheddar Cheese
- ⅔ cup raw cashews, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes and drained (to soften)
- 1 ⅓ cups filtered water
- ⅓ cup chopped and seeded roasted red peppers
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder/flour/starch
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pan.
Meanwhile, make the Smoky Cashew Cheddar Cheese by adding the soaked and drained cashews, filtered water, roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, arrowroot, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, sea salt, black pepper, cayenne (if using), and hot sauce (if using) to a high-speed blender. Blend on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
Once the pasta is ready, pour the Smoky Cashew Cheddar Cheese mixture into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium for 5 minutes or until very thick and just shy of stretchy, whisking constantly. Once thickened, immediately turn off the heat to avoid overheating. Arrowroot loses its thickening power if overheated, so be attentive to it.
Spoon the cheese over the pasta and toss to coat, adding pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, as needed to thin the sauce. Season with more sea salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper, to taste. I usually add another ½ teaspoon sea salt, another dash or two of smoked paprika, and a few grinds of black pepper; however, seasoning will vary depending on the amount of pasta you used and how salty your pasta water was, so adjust according to your tastes.