I’ve called this a variation on Mac n Cheese, but my comforting pasta dish is a far cry from the butter and cheese laden dish.
Over the years, I have tried, tasted and read about numerous cheese-free cheese sauces. The initial ones I made weren’t too spectacular, but it only made me more determined to really develop a recipe that I felt could live up to the ‘Mac n Cheese’ title.
In the vegan and healthy food society there has been huge focus on cashew-based sauces – from sweet to savoury recipes, these little nuts are found everywhere. But, as much as I love a good cashew as much as the next vegan foodie, I wanted to shift the focus towards cashew-less recipes. They can be quite heavy and expensive, so as it’s summertime I thought something a bit lighter and brighter was in order. The fact it is vegetable packed is an added bonus, because who doesn’t love hidden vegetables?
I read many recipes that used vegetables in this way to encourage children to up their 5-a-day or even as weaning recipes. While this isn’t my intended market, I definitely think this recipe would satisfy the fussiest of little mouths.
As it goes, this recipe is fuss-free and requires minimal effort – no need to heat the sauce over the stove to help thicken the sauce, all the magic is done in a food processor. All you need is some roasted squash for the lovely creaminess and veggie-based goodness, some nutritional yeast for cheeziness, tahini and milk for added smoothness, some garlic, paprika and mustard for flavour and some turmeric for that golden glow.
Serve this with your favourite pasta and you’ve got a delicious, hearty but healthful and vibrant Mac n Cheese. This isn’t as indulgent or rich as a cheese and butter-based sauce, but it’s a winner in my eyes. Oh, and I add more vegetables to the pasta, because you can never have too many, right?
The final addition is the gorgeously simple but oh-so-good Cheezey Hemp Sprinkle – make extra for dusting salads with!
Butternut Squash Mac n Cheezey Greens with Cheezey Hemp Sprinkle
½ butternut squash
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp plant-based milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp each: garlic powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, Dijon mustard
Cheezey Hemp Sprinkle:
1 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
½ tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp turmeric
Mac n Cheezey Greens:
150g pasta of choice, I like red lentil or brown rice
160g frozen peas
½ white onion, small dice
1 courgette, small dice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp tamari
1 handful spinach, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 190Fan/210*C and line a tray with baking parchment. Place the ½ butternut squash cut side up on the tray and drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until tender and starting to brown at the sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Scoop out the seeds and discard and now scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary and seasoning to taste. You may need to add a splash more milk to make a runnier sauce. This can be made up to 2 days in advance when kept cool in an airtight container in the fridge.
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, adding the peas for the final 5 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water and leave to one side.
Make the Cheezey Hemp Dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
Meanwhile, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for 10 minutes until caramelising and translucent. Now add the courgette and garlic and continue to fry for 5-7 minutes until cooked through, adding the tamari for the last minute.
Return the pasta to the saucepan, add the onion and courgette mix, the chopped spinach, the tomatoes, the Butternut Squash Cheezey Sauce and 2 tbsp of the cooking water. Stir the pasta over a low heat until creamy and well coated in sauce, adding more water as required.
To serve, divide the pasta between two bowls, topping with the Cheezey Hemp Sprinkle – I also like to add sriracha to mine. Best eaten straight away although leftovers are delicious the next day cold or warm them up on the hob with a splash more water.
What do you think of cheese-free cheezey sauces? I would love to hear what you think of my Butternut Squash Mac n Cheezey Greens with Cheezey Hemp Sprinkle, so please leave a comment below and tag me in your creations – I’m @nourishing.amy on Instagram and use the hashtag #nourishingamy.
If you’re looking for other ways to use up your Butternut Squash, how about trying out these: Roasted Roots Lentil and Quinoa Salad, Butternut Squash Macro Power Bowl, or even my Cacao Squash Smoothie Bowl.
With cheezey love.