23 October 2009

Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese (Vegan)

Who doesn't like mac & cheese? Cheese is often one of the last things a vegan will give up. Pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, mac & cheese... how can you live without them?

Luckily, there are some decent cheese alternatives on the market now. This recipe uses Teese Creamy Cheddar from the Chicago Soy Dairy to make a simple yet delicious mac & cheese. This product comes in a flexible plastic tube and feels very gooey and strange in the packaging. But it is meant for melting, and melt it does.

Both Tae and I have made this for non-vegans and every one of them loved it. Make plenty if you want leftovers. Yes, this is really that good, especially if you add some broccoli and chopped roasted red bell pepper to it. And, in my mind, the leftovers are even better.

Depending on how you like your mac & cheese, you may want to increase the bechamel sauce to 3 cups. Altered instructions for that are at the end of the recipe.

Creamy Cheddar Mac & Cheese (Vegan)
preheat oven to 350F (175 - 180C)

12 oz (by weight) dry elbow pasta (about 350g)
salted cooking water

2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs olive or canola oil
2c lukewarm soy or almond milk
1 tsp salt

1 10 oz tube Teese Creamy Cheddar
1 Tbs Earth Balance

bread crumbs - optional
broccoli florets - optional
roasted red bell pepper, chopped - optional
frozen peas - optional (do not require advance cooking)

If using the broccoli (or cauliflower, etc), dump the broccoli florets into the pasta water when it boils, prior to cooking the pasta. Boil one minute, remove to a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside. The water will be slightly green but will not color the pasta.

Boil the pasta in well salted water for as little as possible to make it edible. Reserve 1/2 c cooking water. Drain pasta and return to the pot.

While boiling pasta, make 2c bechamel using the next 4 ingredients. Start by melting the oil in a saucepan. Sprinkle the flour over the top and whisk together. Cook for a minute then gradually whisk in the warm milk. Go at a moderate speed to eliminate lumps. After the milk is in, gradually bring nearly to the boil on a medium heat. Watch carefully so it doesn't boil over.

When the milk bechamel reaches boiling, remove from the heat, add the Teese in chunks and stir to melt. Taste and add 1 tsp of salt if needed.

In the pasta pot, mix pasta and sauce well. Add veggies if using.

If it looks too thick to you, add some or all of the reserved cooking liquid and stir it in.

Dot with 1 Tbs of Earth Balance, and scatter lightly with bread crumbs, if desired.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Spread into the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake 30 minutes covered, then 10 minutes uncovered if desired.

Note If you are used to more sauce, try increasing the amounts in the bechamel to these:

3 Tbs flour
3 Tbs olive or canola oil
3c lukewarm soy or almond milk
1 1/2 tsp salt

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