ABOUT THE RECIPE:
Craving the comforting, creamy texture and smooth taste of mac and cheese? This innovative Mac ’n Peas Casserole recipe fills the bill when you’re seeking a warm and hearty replacement for that dairy-laden version. Peas add color and pop, while the butternut squash and cashews create a super velvety sauce.
MAKES 6 TO 10 SERVINGS
3¾ cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped butternut squash
1⁄3 cup raw cashews
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons water, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon mellow white miso (optional)
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¾ teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon ground turmeric
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound elbow pasta, cooked al dente and chilled
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 to 3 slices whole grain bread
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Fit a steamer basket into a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 2 to 3 inches of cold water to the pot and then add the butternut squash (see note). Cover and bring to a boil. Steam the butternut squash until very tender, about 20 minutes. Let the butternut squash cool for about 20 minutes (see note).
Meanwhile, put the cashews and 1⁄2 cup water in a small bowl. Let soak for 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the soaking water from the cashews and thoroughly rinse the cashews under clean, cold running water.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the cooled butternut squash, miso, cashews, 1 1⁄2 tablespoons of cold water, mustard powder, smoked paprika, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper and turmeric into a blender and process until the consistency of a thick, smooth sauce. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, to achieve the desired consistency.
Put the sauce, pasta and peas in a medium-sized casserole with tight fitting lid, that has been liberally coated with vegan buttery spread or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and bake 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the bread into a blender and process into crumbs. Add olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt (optional), then stir to coat. Remove casserole from oven and uncover. Top with crumbs and bake (uncovered) for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until bubbling and heated through.
Chef’s note: If you are fan of garlic, add 2 small cloves minced garlic to the butternut squash when steaming. Proceed as directed.