Samah Dada
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Cacio e Pepe Mac 'n Cheese (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

I was a Kraft gal growing up, which admittedly is difficult to imagine now, but I’m not going to lie to you about my past. To put aside the questionable bright orange powder and innocent macaroni is to put your youth aside, too. The good news is that I’ve made a Mac ‘n cheese that gives us a revelatory, dare I say, elevated lactaid-free experience of consumption.

I have never been the type of person to have heart palpitations over cheese – please, give it to me on pizza, but I’m not reaching for cheese and grapes or crackers over something like hummus, popcorn, or chips and guacamole. That being said, there is something undoubtedly irresistible about a creamy, velvety cheese sauce that you can drown both your pasta and your problems in.

I developed this Mac ‘n Cheese because I wanted a decadent, dairy-free version of the traditional, but with a cacio e pepe twist, because it kicks the experience up a notch. Using cashews as the base of the sauce results in a mild, smooth texture – the cheesiness comes from nutritional yeast. While nutritional yeast sounds like the most unattractive thing you’ve ever heard, it’s the reason for the savory, cheesy taste, with some B vitamins to boot. Along with some salt, spices, garlic, and almond milk, I don’t blame you if this doesn’t even make it to the pasta.

You can soak your cashews to make the sauce overnight, or flash-soak them in water you’ve boiled for at least an hour.

To top everything off, I wanted to add a cross between breadcrumb and parmesan with this vegan garlicky parm made just from garlic powder, nutritional yeast, raw cashews, and salt. It’s a nice accompaniment to salads or avocado toast if you end up with extra.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

ingredients//

VEGAN PARMESAN / BREADCRUMBS

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt to taste

VEGAN CACIO E PEPE MAC SAUCE

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked,  soak the cashews overnight or "flash-soak" them in water you've boiled for at least an hour.
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 8 oz. elbows, shells, macaroni, or short pasta of choice

method//

  • Soak cashews, either overnight, or flash-soak them in water you've boiled for at least 1 hour.
  • Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the box – drain, do not rinse.
  • Start by making the parmesan (this way, you can use the same blender for the sauce without washing it twice!). Combine all ingredients for the parm in your blender, just until a fine powder is achieved. You do not want to over-blend as it will become thick and sticky and will not remain dry.
  • Set the parmesan aside and onto the sauce! Start by adding your cashews, nutritional yeast, juice of one lemon, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, turmeric, and cumin. Blend to incorporate the ingredients slightly. It should not look cute at this point.
  • Now, add the almond milk. Blend until the sauce is completely smooth. Season it to taste with salt and pepper. If you'd like to add a bit of a kick, you can add 1/4 tsp. paprika.
  • Add the sauce to your cooked pasta. Mix until the sauce is well incorporated into the pasta and its crevices. Now, top with the parmesan, mixing it into the pasta. Reserve some of the parmesan to the top before serving.
  • Serve with freshly ground black pepper, and parm Enjoy!

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