If you're anything like me, by the time February rolls around, you're craving some comfort food. At the top of my list for this soothing pleasure is macaroni and cheese. The trouble with this is, it isn't very healthy or comforting to my body. If I ate this only once in a great while, I wouldn't worry about it but this dish is a regular request in my home so I had to make it nutritious.
Here's what I did...
I used gluten-free pasta. I got the creamy, cheesy flavor I (and my family) craved by using cashew cream plus nutritional yeast instead of using cheese and cream. I added broccoli and peas to get some veggies in on the action. And finally, I got a crunchy texture with a sprinkling of gluten-free panko and tomato slices for the finishing touch. This dish was so good that even my cheese loving, boxed mac and cheese making, daughter couldn't get enough of it!
- 1 lb. gluten-free pasta (I like a small pasta like a mini penne so that the sauce isn’t overwhelmed with a big pasta)
- 1 lb. broccoli, par-boiled so that it’s half way done
- 1 cup frozen baby peas
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 2 cups water
- 3 slices of sun-dried tomatoes, cut in a 1/4” strips and then in 1/4" dice
- 2 - 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 fresh garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 pinch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup of gluten-free panko for the crunchy topping
- 7 slices of fresh tomato for garnish
Make the cashew cream by soaking the cashews in water for about 20 minutes. Add nuts and water to the a food processor and puree until smooth.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, but drain when still quite firm to the touch (you’ll cook it for about half the recommended cooking time on the package).
Place a large (at least 10”) sauté pan over medium heat, and add the oil.
Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook just until the garlic begins to color.
Lower the heat to med-low, add the cashew cream and the nutritional yeast. Season with salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the pasta and follow with the broccoli, peas and sun-dried tomatoes. Add a bit more water if too thick.
Add the pasta and sauce to a baking dish.
Sprinkle liberally with panko. Top with the tomato slices.
Bake covered in a pre-heated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes; uncover and cook under the broiler for 2 minutes or just until the panko turns golden.
Remove from the oven and serve.