• 1 1/2 to 2 pounds butternut squash (about 1 medium squash), peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Generous dash of each salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons large-flake nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • 2 cups cooked vegetables, such as steamed chopped spinach, blanched peas or lightly steamed broccoli florets (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Gena Hamshaw, photo by James Ransom
  • Serves: 6 people

Everyone has a favorite mac and cheese recipe. This one, which uses sweet, creamy butternut squash in the sauce, is mine. As the author of the cookbook Food52 Vegan, I love creating vegan alternatives to comfort dishes. To create an authentic cheese flavor, I use a combination of nutritional yeast, miso, smoked paprika, salt and lemon juice. (You can use any leftover sauce as a cheese dip.)

I highly recommend including the optional vegetables. In addition to providing some contrasting color and texture, they’ll round out the meal, so you won’t have to worry about making an extra side dish. Win, win!

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a 7 by 11-inch (18 by 28cm) pan.
  2. Coat the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then spread it evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until very tender and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven. Decrease the oven temperature to 350°F.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown. Add the coconut milk and 3⁄4 cup of the almond milk. Whisk in the nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder. Cook, whisking constantly, until nice and thick, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and add the remaining 1⁄2 cup of almond milk, the butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1⁄4 teaspoon of pepper, the paprika, lemon juice and miso. Stir to distribute the ingredients somewhat evenly. Working in batches, transfer to a blender or food processor and process until totally smooth and creamy.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking. Stir in the pasta and adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well and let cool briefly.
  6. Put the pasta in a large bowl and add the vegetables. Add the sauce, using only 2 cups of it if not adding the optional vegetables. Stir gently until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve right away.
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