Mac and cheese is a family favourite around the world with different types of cheeses used, crispy breadcrumbs sprinkled on top, secret ingredients thrown in, or whatever else your imagination can dream up. No matter how it’s made, it’s comforting, heartwarming and fun! Bright coloured, gooey, stringy cheese really does make a good mac ‘n cheese but vegans need love too. The recipe I’m sharing here is vegan, and I’m not talking about messing around with making a vegan cheese sauce or taking the time to make a roux. All you need is a flavoursome puree and by adding a few things, you can create that same warming feeling you get in the first bite.
For this recipe all you really need is your pasta, a pumpkin and anything else you wanna throw in. It really is a quick cheat vegan mac ‘n cheese. If you are making truely vegan, check your pasta ingredients and be sure to use dried as it will more likely be vegan. Fresh pasta will always contain egg, which isn’t suitable. Along with good pasta, making a great puree will really add a smooth creaminess to your dish without having to use dairy. And guess what? It’s super easy.
Start by getting a pan for the pasta filled with water and on a high heat. Add a touch of oil and some salt and now let’s move on to the pumpkin. For the pumpkin puree, simply preheat the oven nice and hot to about 180 degrees C. Cut your pumpkin into big quarters and scrape out all the seeds. (Don’t throw them out! Dry them and roast them! Remember this tasty healthy snack we did on Halloween?).
Now, place the pumpkin in a roasting tray, drizzle with some veg oil, a generous pinch of sea salt and cover with foil. The salt will help draw out some moisture and you will have a sweet pumpkin stock sitting in the bottom of the tray when finished that will only add to the puree and help you get the consistency you want.
While that’s going, get your pasta cooked to your liking and prepare any additions you want to add to your mac ‘n cheese.Why not roast some of those pumpkin seeds from earlier with chilli and scatter on top to add a crunch? Or bake some kale till it’s crispy and crumble on top? You could also try roasting off any veggies you have in the fridge and putting them through the pasta! Have fun and experiment!
To check the pumpkin, just stick a fork into the flesh to see if it is soft enough to blend. When it is, take it out and place on the side to cool for a moment or two until you can safely handle it to scrape out the flesh. I know this may take a bit longer that just cutting it up and boiling in water, but believe me, you won’t get the same flavour. Roasting it intensifies the flavour and guarantees a deeper colour and far more flavoursome end product. We don’t want to compromise on flavour for time. When doing a dish like this it is for friends and family, so don’t rush, it will count, trust me.
Get out your blender and scrape out as much pumpkin meat as you can and get ready to blend. You can do this in batches rather than one go if you need to. Whizz it up and grab some of that sweet pumpkin stock you have in the base of that tray and add a touch as you blend to get the consistency you want. You wont need to pass this puree through a sieve or anything (another joy of this recipe). Once you have all the pumpkin blended you will be left with a bright golden, beautiful pumpkin puree!
Take a touch of the starchy water left over from when you cooked your pasta and add it to your sauce as it will loosen it up and help it all bind together. Notice there are no ingredient ratios or quanties in this recipe, so make as much as you want and keep it in the fridge for a quick snack another time. Last but not least, all you have to do is mix everything together, add any additions you want and bake in the oven or place under a hot grill and then enjoy! Some herby bread crumbs with chilli is a favourite of mine, what’s yours?