Thursday, August 2, 2012

Macaroni and Cheeze

Yes, this is cheese with a "z!" When I first decided to cut dairy products from my diet, I figured I would have to do without some of my favorite foods, namely ice cream and cheesy noodles. Well, it didn't take long for me to learn that vegans love to eat these things too! I can still remember reading about nutritional yeast for the first time, thinking it sounded like a weird supplement and definitely not a delicious condiment that was to become a staple of my diet.
Then I saw it at the store, and I thought it looked like fish food, the kind you sprinkle on top of your tank and the fish eagerly swarm the surface.
But all of that said, once I made this luscious and rich cheeze sauce, bursting with savory flavor, I was sold on nutritional yeast. And with the spectrum of amino acids and B-vitamins it provides, it is a delicious way to add some health to your diet too! I have now learned to associate it with the comforting and delicious products we associate with yeast, bread and beer. The inactive dried yeast in this recipe once was alive and multiplying, with that "fresh baked bread" aroma. The flavor on its own is mild, but combined with other savory flavors, it really adds delicious depth that can be described as nutty or cheezy. Nutritional yeast is in bulk bins at Whole Foods and health food stores, and it is generally very affordable.
This rich, creamy sauce is bursting with savory flavor. Does it taste just like cheese? Of course not. But it tastes like all the savory flavorings you add and the texture is thick and unctuous. It satisfies the same craving as a rich cheesy sauce, but without using artery-clogging cholesterol or harming any animals in the process. This recipe is infinitely customizable. If I am missing any one ingredient I have listed here (and I almost always am), I simply leave it out. As long as the sauce has a rich, creamy texture and a salty, savory flavor, it is a success. If you want to stir some pre-made vegan cheeze into the sauce when you are finished, by all means. If you want to use gluten-free pasta, then this sauce is gluten-free too! I like to cover the mac in breadcrumbs and bake it, but this sauce is also delicious simply tossed with noodles. I have also been known to pour this sauce over baked potatoes or steamed broccoli. CHEEZE instead of CHEESE!


Macaroni and Cheeze
Play around with your preferred proportions of ingredients. If you think something I haven't mentioned here sounds good, add it in! This sauce is infinitely customizable.
INGREDIENTS:
1 1-lb. bag of noodles of your choice (I like fusilli)

1/4 cup cornstarch (or tapioca starch, etc.)
1 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (I like coconut)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast, divided in half
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
2 tablespoons tahini (optional)
several dashes of Louisiana-style hot sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons light miso, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegan margarine (or more to taste)
salt, pepper to taste

Breadcrumbs:
about 1 cup stale bread, chopped into large pieces about even in size
2 tablespoons vegan margarine, or olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
dried or fresh herbs to taste (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring pot of water to boil, add salt and bag of pasta. Cook according to directions, usually about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together vegan milk, cornstarch and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until heated through and beginning to thicken. Add in all ingredients before miso (onion powder to hot sauce). Allow to thicken and bubble. If it seems overly thick, add a splash more of milk. If it seems too thin, add a tablespoon of cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of milk. Once the color is orange-y and texture is thick and creamy, add in the remaining 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, and the vegan margarine. Stir to melt margarine and combine. Turn off heat and add miso that has been mashed into water until dissolved. Stir well and then taste for seasonings, adding salt, pepper, hot sauce, mustard, whatever you think it needs until it tastes just about right. (If you are not using hot sauce, consider adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice). Your pasta is probably about done by now. Drain it well and stir it into the cheeze sauce. 
To make breadcrumbs, chop stale bread (or toast fresh bread until crispy and let it cool) and then pulse in food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add margarine or oil, as well as salt, pepper and optional herbs (I love rosemary). Pulse until combined. Spread cheezy noodles into a baking dish and cover with breadcrumbs. Bake about 20 minutes on top rack until breadcrumbs are browned and toasty. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve it up! Goes great with a side of greens or some BBQ mushrooms or tofu.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to make this -- so stoked the recipe is available!

    ReplyDelete