Another dish I’ve been dying to make for ages, and finally got to tonight. Back in the days when I worked at Cowpie Café (the vegetarian student run cafeteria at my college), an old standby for many of the vegan dishes was a sweet-potato-and-nutritional-yeast “cheese” perfect for sandwiches, quesadillas, and more. I adore the stuff, but was a bit nervous at how my cheese loving family would receive it. With just my mother and I tonight and a strong craving, it seemed the perfect opportunity. After a little hunting, I found an appealing recipe from Healthy.Happy.Life. It didn’t disappoint, though I’ll warn you it had little in common with traditional mac ‘n’ cheese. It was moister, chock-full of flavor — the flavor seems to intensify greatly with baking — and a shocking shade of orange (yellow sweet potatoes might be better for this, or a smooth-textured squash like butternut or kabocha). The proportion of sauce to pasta seemed a bit high to me, and it seemed a bit thicker than necessary, at least for baking, so I have slightly altered the amounts and proportions in the recipe below. Otherwise, this was the perfect comfort food for our first day of genuine winter weather, hearty and warming without being heavy and greasy.
I also must profess my love for Tokyo turnips… so versatile (you can eat them raw, or cooked just about any way) and sweet with just a pleasant hint of distinctive turnip bite. And their tops cook up quickly as well, without the bitterness I usually dread from turnip greens. Here they were delicious braised with arugula and a couple cloves of garlic. Together with chunky mashed turnips sprinkled with cinnamon, they rounded out the meal delightfully.
UPDATE (10/12/17): Must say that I think that winter squash works best in this, it’s more subdued color and flavor coming closer to the savory cheesy flavor of the original, delicious in it’s own right. In particular, this is a great way to use less sweet varieties, or squash you had to bring in when frost loomed, before it had a chance to ripen fully in sweetness. Also, I loved the addition of sage and thyme to this dish!
Macaroni with “cheesy” sweet potato
About 1/2 to 3/4 cup mashed sweet potato (or winter squash)
2 cups macaroni
1 cup milk of your choice
4-5 tbsp. nutritional yeast
A few sprinkles of favorite seasonings (cumin, nutmeg, cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
Almond meal, flax seed meal, and dried Italian herbs (optional, for crust if baking)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cook sweet potato until very soft (I steamed it in the microwave for seven minutes), then scoop out of skin and mash. Meanwhile, start pasta and whisk together milk, nutritional yeast, and sweet potato, then mix in seasonings to taste. Keep in mind that the flavor will probably intensify significantly with baking. Drain cooked pasta and combine with sauce. Enjoy as is, or sprinkle with almond meal, flax seed meal, and herbs and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more, or until surface is set and crispy. Yum!