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Cooking5/18/16
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Baked Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

This savory pasta bake will satisfy just about anyone

Making and eating vegan food is all the rage these days, so we decided it was time to give our favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, the vegan treatment. This pasta bake isn't just for the dairy-free though—it's creamy, savory and hits all those nostalgic mac-and-cheese notes. It's even topped with crispy bread crumbs and quickly baked in the oven, just like Mom used to do.

But let's get one thing straight: This ain't your mama's mac-and-cheese. Raw cashews give the sauce its dairy-like creaminess and sautéed onions, jalapeño and a killer spice mix give the sauce serious flavor depth. Trendy spice turmeric not only gives the dish a tempting, cheesy-looking color but also a superfood punch that basically makes it a health food.

Though this pasta bake might not fool the choosiest of dairy-friendly mac-and-cheese connoisseurs, it is the ultimate alternative to the usually heavy comfort food, and we promise it will hit the spot—vegan or not.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees°.

In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add half a medium yellow onion, diced, and half a jalapeño pepper, minced. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent and slightly golden.

Add 1 clove of smashed garlic and cook just until fragrant. Toss in 8 ounces of raw cashews and continue to cook for 1 minute to warm them through. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender. Add 1⅓ cups of water, ½ cup of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of English mustard powder, ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon of black pepper and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Blend until very smooth.

Toss the sauce well with 1 pound of cooked penne rigate pasta and then pour into a greased casserole dish.

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of rye bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt to taste.

Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Get more vegan pasta recipes:
• 30-minute Vegan Garlic Pasta with Tomatoes
• Quick and Easy Vegan Alfredo
• Vegan Pesto with Spaghetti and White Beans