Who doesn't like "mac n' cheese?" I'm not sure I have met any person who has said, "No, I don't like mac n' cheese." Oh, except for my husband. He has never been a "fan" of this quintessential "kids meal;" largely, I think ,because he doesn't like cheese that much (boy, did I get lucky when I wanted to go vegan on this point)! Sometimes, I crave it though, and I have worked really hard to duplicate the impossible. I want to get the same cream and cheese flavor as my old favorites from the box. Ta-dah! The impossible is made possible because this recipe has the same texture, look and mouth feel (as well as taste!) of your traditional mac and cheese. In fact, it looks and tastes so much like the "real deal," it took some convincing for my husband to even TRY this vegan version. Turns out, he does like mac n' cheese; as long as it's "cheese" free = ).
Sustainability Spotlight: Pasta takes a lot of water to boil a full pound. Not only do you need the water for boiling, but a lot of that water is turned to steam and completely "lost" in the cooking process. Keeping in mind that sustainability tries to minimize the impacts of human use of the planet's resources, how could that not include the resource that comprises 72% of the Earth's composition (water!)? Despite being the most abundant resource on Earth, only 3% of that resource is fresh water (aka - suitable for human consumption), and there are many places on Earth that do not have access to fresh or abundant water supplies like we do in the U.S.
Luckily for the States, 21% of the entire fresh water supply on Earth resides in the Great Lakes (this also translates to 90% of the fresh water supply in North America). That doesn't mean that we can just use whatever we like because it is available though! The Great Lakes have many threats; not least of which include pollution or invasive species (visit the Great Lakes Alliance to find out more and how we can help protect this natural resource: https://greatlakes.org).
So, how can we be mindful in our kitchens for protection of this valuable, necessary and threatened resource? We can use all of the pasta water to the best of our ability by cooking the pasta, while steaming the vegetables in a steamer basket over top (retaining as much of the resource as possible via the steam), and then using the cooled pasta water to water your plants. Did you know that the released starch in the pasta water can aid house plants by adding nutrients to the soils? Yep! This recipe allows for you to practice this method of water conservation, and apply to other meals in the future.
1 lb rotini (or other pasta of your choice - I like the "cling" of curved / textured noodles)
1 large broccoli crown cut into florets
3-4 garlic cloves (diced)
1 yellow onion (chopped)
1 cup raw cashews (soaked at least 2 hours in water; drained)
1.5 cups vegetable broth
1 lemon (juiced)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp white (mellow) miso paste or drained capers (either work, but I prefer miso)
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Place a large pot of salted water over Medium-High heat and bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and bring back to boiling. Cook noodles for ~8 minutes & stir occasionally.
Add steamer basket with broccoli to your pasta pot. Cover with lid and steam for ~7-8 minutes (note, you will need to stir the pasta during this time - lift steamer basket (carefully! it is hot - use kitchen towels or hot pads) and stir, then replace and cover). Broccoli will be done when it turns a bright green, looks moist and can be pierced easily with a fork. set aside Remove steamer basket and stir pasta - continue to cook as needed until pasta is al dente).
While pasta cooks, heat a medium pan over Medium-High heat; add some avocado oil and swirl to coat. Once oil shimmers, add onion and saute until golden (~7 minutes). Add garlic and saute another minute or so until fragrant. Remove from heat.
While onion is cooking, add all remaining ingredients listed (cashews through nutritional yeast) to a high speed blender. Once onion & garlic is done, add to the blender and blend on high until smooth (for ~1 minute (for Vitamix); ~5-6 minutes for other blenders (scrape down sides as needed).
Once pasta is done cooking, drain water into a measuring cup (for easy pour (once cooled) to water your indoor plants) reserving ~1/4 cup pasta water in pasta pot. Next, pour your sauce ingredients from blender and stir until all noodles are coated well.
Serve portions of creamy cheesy noodles into bowls, top with broccoli florets and sprinkle with hemp seeds. Warm up note: for leftover noodles, add a bit of water to your pasta and then rewarm. It will become just as creamy as day one.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie