Gluten Free - Dairy Free - Refined Sugar Free
Whether you long for the days of a simple mac and cheese, but no longer lead the dairy-full lifestyle or you’re just a fan of butternut squash, this meal will be for you. I’m not claiming that this is a replacement or will taste just like mac and cheese. Nope. Not at all. This is even better. It’s a nutrient rich pasta dish made from anti-inflammatory, health promoting ingredients.
Butternut squash is a winter squash that is high in carotenoids (antioxidants that put out inflammatory fires in the body). It is high in vitamins A and C, which support healthy vision, and immune and heart function. Squash is also a great source of dietary fiber which helps feed the good bugs in your gut, also supporting your immune function and healthy bowel movements.
Nutritional yeast is a de-activated yeast with a strong nutty, cheesy flavor. It’s a plant-based protein that can make food taste a bit cheesy, so you’ll find it in many dairy-free products that are trying to mimic cheese. It’s also a good source of B vitamins, which can be lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is a good way to ensure that you are getting some B vitamins to support your nervous system while eating a plant-based meal.
Cashews are the creamiest of creamy nuts, so they’ll often be found in dairy-free cheese or cream substitutes. They are a healthy fat that supports your joints, and both bone and heart health. Nuts are best stored in a cool, dark environment to maintain their nutritional value and healthy properties. When making cashews into creams it is important to soak them prior so that they blend well into a lump-free end product. If you do not have a high-speed blender, you can use a food processor just be sure not to skip the soaking step because this will help produce a creamier, less chunky texture. Trust me, you don’t really want chunks in this recipe. Soak your cashews overnight in a cool setting then drain and rinse prior to blending.
Enjoy this butternut mac with a side of spicy kale (or mix it in!). This adds another layer of complexity and really brings the entire dish together. Don’t like kale? Swap for spinach or swiss chard. Who can say no to more greens?!
Butternut Squash Mac
Prep: 15 min., Steam: 15 min., Total time: 30 min.
Makes: 1+ Quart
½ cup raw cashews, soaked*
2 cups butternut squash cut into 1” cubes
1 Tbsp. ghee or coconut oil
½ sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup unsweetened dairy free milk
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
¾ tsp. ground paprika
¾ tsp. sea salt
1/8 – ¼ tsp. cayenne (depending on how much spice you’d like)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
12 oz. gluten free brown rice fusilli pasta
In a large pot with a steamer, steam the butternut squash for 10 – 14 minutes until fork tender.
While the squash is steaming, heat the ghee/coconut oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions until translucent (~ 5 minutes). Add the garlic until fragrant (~ 2 minutes) then remove from heat.
In a high-speed blender, combine the pre-soaked cashews, steamed butternut, onion mixture, df milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, paprika, sea salt, 1/8 tsp. of cayenne, and black pepper. Blend on high with a tamper. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the container. Once the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, taste and add more cayenne or black pepper as needed.
Set the squash mixture aside and make the pasta following the directions on the package. Make the spicy kale in a new pan.
When ready to eat, heat the butternut mixture over low heat. Stir to prevent burning. Serve over fusilli pasta with a heap of the spicy kale on the side of mixed right into the pasta.
Prep: Soak the cashews for a minimum of 4 hours. Overnight while you’re sleeping is easiest because this way they’re ready to blend when you wake up.
High-Speed Blender Only: If you forget to soak the cashews ahead of time, boil a few cups of water and pour over the cashews to quick soak for 20 minutes. You will lose nutrient value by doing this, so try to plan ahead when possible. Note: if you don’t have a high-speed blender then a longer soak is necessary to ensure that there are no lumps or clumps.
Prep: Butternut sauce can be made a couple of days in advance. This way you can just re-heat it when you’re ready to eat.
Storage: Keep butternut sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Let us know what you think in the comments section below.