Ah, mac and cheese. I could sing thy praises for a lifetime. You are the chunky knit sweater of foods. Your warm, chewy, cheesy goodness is like a warm hug for my insides, and you have always been there to provide sustenance after many a drunken night.
I shall never tire of you, but alas, your excessive caloric composition prevents me from enjoying you as often as I desire.
Oh, but what’s this now? A vegan, butternut squash mac and cheese? With an autumnally appropriate, dairy-free sauce? And a crispy, golden panko-sage topping?
I’m so into it.
Ok, weird ode to mac and cheese over. But seriously, this vegan butternut squash mac and cheese is currently floating around in my top three favorite macaroni preparations of all time (trailing by a hair behind caprese mac and lobster mac).
Once you try it I suspect it will sit high up on your list, too. A rich, silky sauce comprised of pureed butternut squash and a base of cashew béchamel- which is my new favorite thing to use in like, everything– is tossed with pasta, topped with an aromatic panko and crispy sage breadcrumb topping (swoon) and baked to perfection.
Side note- how adorable are these snowflake shaped pasta I found? I couldn’t resist- they’re a seasonal find at Trader Joe’s, if you want to go pick some up!
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Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese features a silky vegan butternut squash cashew cheese sauce and a crispy sage panko topping.
- FOR THE PANKO-SAGE CRUST:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 8-10 sage leaves
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- FOR THE MACARONI:
- 2 cups cubed butternut squash
- 1 pound dried pasta
- 1/4 cup cashews soaked in hot water for 1 hour and drained
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cashew milk
- 2 tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic grated
- Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash in a steamer basket set over boiling water and cover. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
Boil pasta in a pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
To make the panko sage breadcrumbs, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add sage and smashed garlic, cooking until sage is crisp on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Remove sage leaves and drain on paper towels. Add panko to skillet and stir to combine. Cook until breadcrumbs are golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, crush sage leaves band mix into toasted breadcrumbs. Set aside.
To make the cashew béchamel, blend cashews and 1/2 cup of cashew milk in a food processor or high speed blender until completely smooth. Melt vegan butter in a medium saucepan and add the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until flour is cooked and mixture has turned golden brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the remaining cup of cashew milk, followed by blended cashew mixture, nutmeg, nutritional yeast and garlic. Stirring to combine, and cook until mixture has thickened, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt.
Remove bechamel from heat and fold in butternut squash puree until completely incorporated. Add pasta to pot and combine with sauce. Spoon into greased individual ramekins or a 9x9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle generously with breadcrumb mixture and bake for about 20 minutes.