11 February 2013

Baked mac 'n' 'cheese'

Here's a hearty dish that'll warm you right up and stick to your ribs on these long winter nights! It may even stir up some misty memories of childhoods long past, waiting anxiously at the table for a big casserole dish full o' mac 'n' cheese to emerge from the fiery depths of the oven, just begging to be greedily chowed down on. There's really nothing quite as wholesome or as satisfying as a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Luckily, this dish is a far cry from Kraft Dinner, and the extra effort is ever so worth it for the delicate tenderness yet ever-so-slight crunch of the pasta after it's been baked and the thick, spicy, cheesy zing of the sauce, not to mention the swirls of nostalgia that run to the bottom of the bowl. Good to the last slurp.

This recipe is adapted, as are many of my culinary experiments, from a recipe in Chloe Coscarelli's Chloe's Kitchen. The buckwheat flour (which it turns out makes for an excellent roux), the maple syrup (instead of agave, which I do not currently possess), and most of the spices are my idea.

Baked mac 'n' 'cheese'

1/2 lb   macaroni
3 tbsp   dairy-free margarine
3 tbsp   buckwheat flour
1 tsp   whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cup   almond milk
1/4 cup   nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp   tomato sauce
1 tsp   maple syrup
juice of 1/6   lemon
1 tsp   salt
1 tsp   garlic salt
1 tsp   pepper
1 tsp   paprika
dash   thyme
dash   red pepper flakes
crushed crackers for topping (I used Mary's Organic Black Pepper Crackers and it was divine)

Note: I would also recommend adding some greens in there if you're feeling extra healthy, like broccoli, kale, or spinach. Also feel free to scale back on the spices, especially paprika and red pepper flakes, as the dish was almost too spicy this way. Almost.

Preheat oven to 350 F. If you will be using a 9-by-13 pan, grease that up. (I just popped the saucepan in the oven; a little risky, I know, but it worked fine.)

Bring a large pot of salted, oiled water to a boil and add the macaroni, stirring occasionally until soft and tender.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the flour and margarine over medium heat, whisking/ stirring to create a roux. Add the almond milk, nutritional yeast flakes, tomato sauce, salt, garlic salt, pepper, and paprika, stirring occasionally until it's hot, bubbly, and thick. Reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two longer, still stirring, then add the lemon juice and the hint of maple syrup and swirl to combine.

Once the macaroni is cooked, drain the water and rinse the pasta. Add the macaroni to the saucepan and stir vigorously (but don't spill!) to thoroughly combine with the 'cheese' sauce. If you're using a 9-by-13 pan, transfer the dish to that. If not, sprinkle thyme, red pepper flakes, cracker crumbs, and some extra nutritional yeast flakes right over top of the saucepan and pop it in the oven. Bake as long as desired, up to 30 minutes. (I could really only wait about 10 minutes before it smelled so good that I had to chow down on it, but feel free to crispify it more.) Happy eating!

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