This recipe marked the first time I’d turned to VegWeb for guidance in years. The veg recipe directory and LiveJournal’s vegan cooking communities were my learn-as-you-go and read-the-comments because you can only-sorta-trust-the-internet tip toes into the vegan culinary world back in the early 2000s. It’s like I can recall mildly freaking out when the number of nutritional yeast sauce recipes rose above 10. After our time apart, I admit that I really enjoyed seeing that most of the recipes I perused were still called “The Best Ever” “The Very Best Ever” “Mom’s Best” “The Best in the World!!!!”, etc. I like vegan enthusiasm.
To get to the point, I just decided to chance it on the internet, test my tastebuds and emulate the memorable vegan mac & cheese my friend Chelsea ordered at Bang Bang Cafe at Seattle this past weekend. I stole a couple of bites, and I was a little jealous that I hadn’t ordered their smokey vegan mac for breakfast, too! I thought it was so good that it must contain vegan cheese, and was surprised to learn that it was tofu and nutritional yeast based! Swell.
Back to Bang Bang, where I fed my bourbon-induced mild hangover a more wholesome bean and roasted veggie filled burrito. When I returned, however, I had a potluck meeting to attend to the next day and after browsing my limited ingredients and finding a box of whole wheat shells, knew it was time to eye my 2 jars of Spanish smoked sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika, Hungarian half sweet paprika, Alder smoked salt and my good buddy, the giganto container of nutritional yeast flakes. The finished result didn’t seem to fit everyone’s tastes – which is how vegan mac & cheese always seems to work – but more than a couple folks seemed obsessed and another friend had me write down the recipe, so here we go. Dare I say I had fun making a mac & cheese recipe where you simply had to puree the cheesy sauce ingredients..because, I did.
Smokey Baked Mac & Cheese, adapted from Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world…seriously, as posted on VegWeb.com. I halved the recipe and made a few changes based on what I was aiming for and had on hand.Go, go smokey, creamy mac!
- 3/4 lb whole wheat pasta or rice pasta, preferably with ridges
- 1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I used a combination of So Delicious coconut milk beverage and soy milk)
- 3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or non-hydrogenated margarine
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 cup soaked and drained raw cashews
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
- pinch cayenne
- pinch hot paprika
- generous pinch of salt (add more to taste after blending sauce)
- 1 tablespoon mustard (I used TJ’s spicy sweet mustard)
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup vegan cheese (I used Teese cheddar sauce)
- pinch of additional paprika and cayenne
- olive oil mister/spray
- smoked salt
1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease a small casserole dish. Boil the water and cook pasta 1 minute less than instructed. Drain and add to your casserole dish. You’ll want at least a couple inches of room to be able to add the cheesy sauce.
2. Puree the cheesy sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth and adjust the seasonings to taste. Carefully stir into the cheesy sauce and vegan cheese, if using.
3. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on top, followed by the smoked salt and additional paprika and cayenne, if using. Lightly spray with oil. Bake until the breadcrumbs looks golden, 15-20 minutes. Broil an additional 5 minutes, if desired.
Serve with steamed greens, unless you’re nuts.