That’s totally what went through my head with this recipe. I told my husband last week that I was craving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. (Doesn’t everyone have these random cravings for nostalgic, refined “crap” foods once in a while?) It’d been forever since I’d had anything close to macaroni and cheese, much less the “real” thing (Kraft or homemade). Last year around this time, I made a “cheesy” grain-free, vegan cauliflower and butternut dish that was a delicious swap for macaroni and cheese. But never had I attempted something that would really replace macaroni and cheese. I wanted, you know, noodles. With a creamy cheesy-like sauce.
So I went for it. I found some brown rice pasta that I enjoy. I grabbed a whole can of full-fat coconut milk, my good ol’ vegan cheesy standby – nutritional yeast – and a few other ingredients, and got to work. What resulted surprised me. It looked and felt very much like the cheese sauce you might find in a boxed macaroni and cheese. It was creamy. Smooth and rich. Orange, even. Only it tasted better. The flavors were more complex, but still cheesy, and still kid-friendly. My oldest son Matt, who really enjoys the simpler flavors of childhood days, commented that this was some good macaroni. (I hadn’t told him that it wasn’t “real” cheese until afterwards.) The kid in me could imagine some sliced up hot dogs thrown in. (My favorite meal when I was about five – no joke!)
Of course, if you want to elevate this to grown-up status, you could certainly put it in a baking dish, top it with some non-dairy shredded cheese, sprinkle some gluten-free breadcrumbs over, and bake for 20-30 minutes. It’d be amazing that way as well.
So embrace your childhood. Make some mac ‘n’ cheese today!
Macaroni and “Cheese” (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, nut-free)
1/3 c chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c potato starch
1 T lemon juice
1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2-3 T Dijon mustard
2 T tomato paste
1 t turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
12 oz gluten-free pasta (I used Tinkyada), cooked according to directions on package
Smoked paprika, for sprinkling
Heat the vegan butter or shortening in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the potato starch and whisk in until thick. Add the lemon juice, coconut milk, and remaining ingredients and whisk in completely, and stir occasionally until the sauce bubbles. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in cooked gluten-free pasta, and serve with smoked paprika sprinkled over.