Make this flavorful vegan casserole for a weeknight dinner or bring it to a gathering. It’s a total crowd-pleaser!
- 2/3 cup (100 g) raw, unsalted cashews
- 1 pound (454 g) pasta (see Note 1)
- For the cooked vegetables:
- 1 cup (200 g) coarsely chopped, peeled yellow onion (about 1 onion)
- 2 cups (300 g) coarsely chopped, peeled carrot (about 5 medium carrots)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock or water (see Note 2)
- For the sauce:
- 5 tablespoons (79 ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
- 1/3 cup (28 g) nutritional yeast (see Note 3)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- For the topping:
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs (see Note 4)
- Place the cashews in a small bowl, cover with water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Stirring occasionally, undercook the pasta slightly—2 minutes less than what the instructions say on the packaging. This prevents the pasta from being mushy when you bake it. Drain and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and position an over rack in the lower third.
- While the cashews are soaking and the pasta is cooking, prepare the cooked vegetables.
- Place the onion, carrots, garlic cloves, salt and bay leaves in a medium pot. Add the vegetable stock or water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover with a lid, and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
- Place the cooked vegetables with their liquid into a high-speed blender. Add the drained cashews and the rest of the ingredients for the sauce: olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast, brown sugar, paprika, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.
- Blend until smooth. Place the drained pasta into a large bowl. Pour the sauce over it and mix thoroughly.
- Spray a 9×12-inch casserole dish (see Note 5) with vegetable oil, or grease with vegan butter. Add the pasta mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with the panko breadcrumbs, and bake for 40 minutes. (To make the breadcrumbs golden brown and extra crunchy on top, place the casserole dish under a broiler at the end, and broil for 3–4 minutes—optional).
- Serve hot. The Mac ‘n’ Cheese will last, covered, for up to 3 days in the fridge. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
- I used Trade Joe’s organic, gluten-free brown rice penne pasta for this recipe. Use a similar, tubular shape of pasta, either gluten-free or regular.
- If you don’t have vegetable stock on hand, use water. The sauce will lose some of its depth, but will be still delicious.
- Nutritional yeast is a gluten-free, vegan product made from inactive nutritional yeast, niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B1, folic acid, and vitamin B12. It’s nutritious and adds a rich, cheese-like, umami flavor to food.
- Panko breadcrumbs originated in Japan. They’re made from white crustless bread and have a crispy, brittle texture. They look like tiny slivers and give your dish a nice crumb. If you can’t find panko, use regular breadcrumbs.
- This recipe works best in a 9x12x2-inch (mac ‘n’ cheese will be more spread out) or in an 8x8x3-inch (mac ‘n’ cheese will be higher; you won’t need as much breadcrumbs because the surface is smaller) casserole.