Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cayenne Crumb Baked Macaroni

I recently had friends over for a kid-friendly dinner of Caesar Salad, BBQ Seitan, and good bread served with my Roasted Garlic Bowl. And of course, the richest, creamiest baked macaroni, which goes under the auspices of "Macaroni and Trees" for occasions like this. Just perch some steamed broccoli on top, and you'll have a forest full of edible goodness that--remarkably--gets grabbed immediately by little hands.

Would it be melodramatic to say I'm thrilled to share this recipe with you? It would, but I really am thrilled, because this macaroni and cheese is very, very good. It's slightly tangy, and has the creamy color of sharp white cheddar. Omnivore children gobble it up. And it can easily be made soy-free (substitute olive oil for vegan margarine in the crumbs), or wheat-free (use rice or quinoa pasta), if you like.

And look what a dense, creamy bechamel you can make--with no dairy or flour at all!

Cayenne Crumb Baked Macaroni
8 entrée or 12 side dish servings
Serve with a feisty Sangiovese or Shiraz, the perfect balance to this rich supper.
I prefer to use celentani—also called cavatappi, the whimsical corkscrew-shaped pasta, for the macaroni. It holds just the right amount of sauce, and can be found in most supermarkets.

For the Macaroni:
1 pound uncooked celentani or macaroni
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in hot water for at least an hour, and drained
2 cup water
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons tahini, preferably raw
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground fresh nutmeg

For the Cayenne Crumbs:
4 slices wholegrain bread, old or lightly toasted
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons margarine

Make the Baked Macaroni:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Generously grease a 5 quart or 9” x 13” baking dish, or a very large ovenproof bowl, and set aside.

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. It should have a slight bite, but be completely cooked. Drain, and transfer to prepared baking dish.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Pour over cooked macaroni, stirring thoroughly. The macaroni should be saturated with sauce, and the best way to do this is to agitate it, allow it to rest a moment, and agitate it again. Repeat this a few times, and set aside.

Melt together margarine and cayenne in a medium bowl, and set aside. Pulse bread in a food processor or blender until coarse crumbs form. Add to margarine mixture, and toss to combine. Distribute cayenne crumbs evenly over macaroni. Bake 30-35 minutes, covering the top with foil if it browns too quickly. The top will be golden and crisp, while the interior is a creamy, molten muddle.

Serve hot.

For dessert, I made Hostess-style orange cupcakes. Everyone remembers the chocolate sort, of course, but the orange ones are the real gems. I remember eating them--two packages, sometimes--as a midmorning snack in high school, washed down with a pint of milk. How I survived past age 17, I will never know. This version is much healthier: all organic and vegan, and tinted with carrot juice and tumeric instead of things which, despite several degrees, I still cannot pronounce.


VivaciousVegan said...

This looks like the perfect Macaroni and cheese. I am going to make this soon!!!

dreaminitvegan said...

I'm always up on trying a new mac and "cheese" recipe.

Those cupcakes look fabulous!!!

jennyjen said...

This does look perfectly scrumptious! I love the ingredient list...I'm definitely going to be making this. And those cupcakes are gorgeous too!

Saskia said...

I just wanted to tell you that I used this recipe to make an absolutely delish mac and cheese! Thank you so much! This will be my go to sauce from now on!

Joy said...

Saskia, so glad you enjoyed it! We use this sauce for everything around here too, from grilled cheese sandwiches to fondue. And cooking it gently in a saucepan gives it a thicker, stretchy consistency that's very similar to dairy cheese.