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Mac and Cheese with Cashew/Butternut Squash Sauce

Jessica Kellner


Tags: vegan recipes, vegan cooking, Vegan-Ease, Laura Theodore, Jazzy Vegetarian, comfort food, fall food,

vegan mac and cheese   vegan-ease cover

Although I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, I love to eat plant-based meals. Plant-based meals offer the most possible nutrition, the widest range of antioxidants, and the least environmental impact of any meals we can prepare. Not to mention, finding meat and dairy products that are raised responsibly can be difficult—and expensive. So incorporating lots of plants into our diets is a great choice for so many reasons.

Over the past year or so, I've had the good fortune to begin a collaborative relationship with Laura Theodore—host of PBS' Jazzy Vegetarian. Laura offers a huge array of amazing recipes with our readers via her regular blogs on our site, so I was thrilled when a preview copy of her book Vegan-Ease arrived in my office. In it, Laura shares so many fabulous recipes for vegan foods. And although she's included innovative recipes that sound wonderful—Walnut and Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are on my to-make list—one of my favorite things about the book is that she offers healthful, plant-based versions of some of our favorite comfort foods. With that in mind, I wanted to share this awesome recipe for Mac'n Peas with Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce. I love that Laura has created a smooth sauce for this dish out of superhealthy butternut squash and cashews, and that it includes some of the world's most effective medicinal herbs—-garlic, turmeric and cayenne. What could be better for a cool fall dinner after a long day of work and school? Enjoy! 

Mac ’n Peas with Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce

Craving the comforting, creamy texture and smooth taste of mac and cheese? This innovative recipe fills the bill when you’re seeking a warm and hearty replacement for that dairy-laden version. Peas add color and pop, while the butternut squash and cashews create a super velvety sauce.

3¾ cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped butternut squash
2 small cloves garlic, chopped
1⁄3 cup raw cashews
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons filtered or spring water, plus more as needed
3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
1 pound whole-grain fusilli, elbow or chiocciole pasta
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon ground turmeric
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Fit a steamer basket into a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 to 3 inches of cold water to pot, then add squash and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil. Steam squash and garlic until very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes (see note).

2. Meanwhile, put cashews and 1⁄2 cup water in a small bowl. Let soak for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain soaking water from cashews and thoroughly rinse cashews.

3. Once squash and garlic have cooled, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon salt (optional). Stir in pasta. Decrease heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is almost tender. Add peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but firm and the peas are heated through, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and peas.

4. While pasta and peas cook, put cooled squash and garlic, cashews, 11⁄2 tablespoons cold water, mustard powder, smoked paprika, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper and turmeric into a blender and process until the consistency of a thick, smooth sauce. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to achieve desired consistency.

5. Transfer sauce to a medium-sized pan and cook over medium-low heat, just until heated through, stirring often and adding water as needed if sauce is too thick.

6. Put pasta and peas in a large bowl, pour warm sauce over pasta and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Chef’s Note: The butternut squash and garlic may be steamed in advance of preparing this recipe. After steaming, cool and store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Amount per serving, based on 6 servings:  310 Calories; 3g Fat; 0g Saturated fat; 12g Protein; 4mg Sodium; 63g Total Carbohydrate; 11g Sugars; 5g Fiber