MAC AND VEGAN AVOCADO CHEESE

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Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dry cavatappi, or elbow macaroni pasta (you can sub in gluten-free, if desired)
  • 3 ripe avocados, pitted + peeled, half of one reserved for a garnish
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon reserved for a garnish
  • Juice of 1 medium lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten free works here too)
  • 1¼ to 1⅓ non-dairy milk, divided (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 cups vegan cheese (I used Daiya Mozzarella-Style Shreds—see note #1 below)
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup julienned smoked sundried tomatoes
  • Cilantro, for a garnish (optional)
  • Cubed avocado, for a garnish (optional)
  • Shredded cheese, for a garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the pasta. Stir and cook according to the package directions until al dente—7 minutes. Drain and set aside, covering if necessary to keep from drying out.
  2. While the pasta cooks, make the avocado sauce. To the bowl of a food processor, add the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend the sauce until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, then set aside.
  3. Next make the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Next, slowly whisk in 1 cup of the milk until the mixture is smooth again. Allow to simmer and slightly thicken, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Add the cheese shreds, stirring continuously until the sauce is completely melted and blended. If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved milk a couple of tablespoons at a time until the sauce is creamy and thick, but pourable (see note #2 below), then remove from the heat.
  5. To a large bowl, add the pasta and the avocado sauce, stirring together until the noodles are completely coated. Then add the cheese sauce to the pasta mixture and stir until it is completely incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed (I added ½ teaspoon more of salt and ¼ teaspoon more of pepper to finish). Sprinkle with the smoked sundried tomatoes and any other garnishes you choose. Serve immediately (see note #3 below).

Notes:

  1. I used the Daiya mozz shreds here because my store was out of our true favorite, Daiya pepper jack. I would have preferred it, but the mozz still has great flavor. I like the light spicy kick of the pepper jack. The pepper jack only comes in a block, so you will need to grate, or cut into small cubes before adding to the warm milk mixture.
  2. I added the full 1⅓ cups of milk; it made this very saucy (which was my intent), but not runny. Depending on how saucy you want this, you may want to stick to the 1 cup of milk or slightly over.
  3. Although the lime juice helps keep the avocado from browning some, it is best served immediately, or the same day. The second day may show a little browning, but the pasta will still be good to eat (reheat at a low temp).
  4. If you want to add protein to this dish, serve with a side, or top with black beans. Vegan grilled chicken strips, tempeh bacon, or cumin-spiced chickpeas would all be great with this! It’s very versatile!

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