Spicy Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower, Cashew Cheese, and Spinach

image

This is a recipe my husband, Rob, and I have been tweaking for awhile. The original recipe was just a basic mac n cheese and we’ve been adding to it to make it healthier as time has gone on. It still has a good amount of regular ol cheese in it, but we have rounded it out with more nutritious ingredients. I haven’t been able to make the leap to the vegan only version of this recipe with no cheese, but this is a big improvement from the original heavy cream and cheese-only versions.

Serves 6-8. Takes about 2 hours.

Ingredients

1 package spiral shaped pasta- roughly 14-16 ounces. I like Barilla Protein Plus as it has an excellent protein content. This time we used trottole since it was what we had around.

1 head cauliflower chopped roughly

1 cup cashew cheese. To make this soak 2 cups cashews in water for at least 2 hours. Then put in food processor with juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, splash of olive oil, and one pinch each salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. You can make this ahead and keep in the fridge until you use it.

4 cups grated cheese. We use a mix of chipotle Gouda and extra sharp white cheddar

2 1/2 cups skim milk

4 large handfuls fresh spinach roughly chopped

EVOO- total a cup for whole recipe

1/4 cup flour

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

Spices: crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper

Directions

Place two large pots of water to boil on the stove. In one cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Take it off, rinse in cold water, and set aside. In the other pot cook the cauliflower until it is just softened.  While these are cooking, heat a sauté pan with a splash of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add your chopped spinach and cook down until wilted, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.

20150920_22

When cauliflower can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from heat, drain, and place in food processor. Add a splash of skim milk, a splash of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Now add the cashew cheese to the food processor and again blend until smooth.  Place this mixture in a bowl, stir in your wilted spinach, and place bowl in the fridge until later.

20150920_8

In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to coat the crumbs. When well coated place mixture into the sauté pan you used before on medium heat. Toast these while stirring every few minutes, for 10-15 minutes until a nice light brown.  Turn your oven on to 375 to preheat.

20150920_7

While those are toasting, start your bechamel sauce.  In a large sauce pot stir together 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. A whisk is the best tool to use here. Add your flour gradually while stirring constantly. Don’t leave it unattended.

20150920_23

Next, slowly add 2 cups of skim milk, stirring continuously throughout. You should end up with a smooth and thick creamy sauce. Now add your cauliflower, cashew, and spinach mixture from the fridge and stir until smoothly blended. Your cheese goes in next, again stirring constantly. Add the spices to the mix- a teaspoon each cayenne, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper. Finally, add up to 1/2 cup milk to thin the sauce to desired consistency.

 20150920_24

Get your pasta and stir into the sauce, coating evenly. Then place in casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake for roughly 20 minutes and you are ready to serve!

20150920_13

This holds up extremely well for leftovers. Just add a touch of milk when you reheat in the microwave.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: