Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (vegan & gluten-free)

The trick to eating gluten and dairy-free is finding really great substitutions so that you don't miss the things that you're giving up. It's really important that you don't feel deprived - that's the way that I'm able to eat gluten and dairy-free with ease.

Even if you don't subscribe to eating gluten and dairy-free consistently, you'll love this recipe! It has all of the elements of a classic mac & cheese: savoury, creamy and comforting!

I love a good mac & cheese. But you know what I don't love? Feeling gassy, bloated and heavy after eating a traditional version loaded with dairy and wheat products. That's why I recreated a version that's completely gluten and dairy-free and loaded with veggies without compromising on flavour and texture.  

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There are ways to maximize the flavour in these types of recipes. For instance, I roasted the cauliflower and garlic to really potentiate that roasted/caramelized flavour for the cheese sauce and to help reduce the sharpness that can come from raw garlic. 

I personally prefer using quinoa based GF pastas because they hold up really well. They always cook al dente (as long as you don't cook the snot out of them) and they're even good the next day as leftovers. I find that rice and bean/lentil based pastas get very, very stodgy, even the first day you cook them up, let alone for leftovers. I do love them because they're so rich in protein and fibre but it's important to find a GF pasta that works for you. Consider not only how it tastes on your palate but if it sits well, digestively speaking. For me, that's quinoa pasta. I never feel that heavy, bogged down feeling after have a bowl.

I love that this recipe includes 3 types of veggies: cauliflower, carrots and peas. They really help to boost the fibre quotient. This recipe is also fantastic if you have kids (or partners) who are picky eaters because 2 of the 3 veggies are hidden within the sauce. 

You'll also notice that in this recipe we reserve pasta water (pro tip right there!). Pasta water really helps to create a lovely sauce and a little goes a long way. Lastly, it's the perfectly seasoned and toasted gluten-free breadcrumbs that really elevate this dish. It's an extra step that's completely optional but I highly recommend it! 

This Cauliflower Mac & Cheese is rich and savoury without being heavy. The green peas add a nice little pop of colour and some needed freshness while the breadcrumbs deliver on texture. It's beautifully baked, creamy and well balanced. 

 

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (vegan & gluten-free)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1.5 cups cauliflower florets, roasted
4 cloves garlic, roasted
2-3 pieces gluten-free bread, baked
1 package dry gluten-free pasta
1 carrot, chopped and steamed
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp ground mustard seeds
1/2 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight), drained & rinsed
1-2 cups non-dairy milk
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp dry oregano & garlic powder
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
sea salt & black pepper

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside for now.
  2. In a large bowl, drizzle cauliflower florets with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Take garlic cloves and wrap them in a little bit of aluminum foil with a small drizzle of olive oil. Lay cauliflower out on parchment lined cookie sheet with the pouch of garlic and bake for 25 minutes.
  3. On another cookie sheet (no parchment necessary) lay gluten-free bread down and bake at the same temp. as the cauliflower for 25 minutes. {we want to dry out the bread for breadcrumbs}.
  4. In the meantime, get a large pot of salted water boiling and cook pasta according to directions on the package. Then prepare the remainder of your sauce ingredients. 
  5. Steam chopped carrot until fork tender and add to a blender or food processor with the rest of the sauce ingredients: nutritional yeast, ground mustard seed, cashews, non-dairy milk, lemon juice, pinch of sea salt, black pepper, roasted cauliflower florets and garlic (remove skin first). Blend or process until smooth and creamy. Taste carefully for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Set aside.
  6. Pulse baked GF bread in a food processor until it's ground to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Then add breadcrumbs to a small pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil and add oregano, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper. Toast them for about 5-10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Once done, set aside. 
  7. Cook frozen peas according to the directions on the package and set aside. 
  8. When the pasta has about 3 minutes left to cook, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy water and set aside. 
  9. Drain pasta well and pour into a baking dish. Stir in a little of your sauce with 1 Tbsp of the reserved pasta water. Taste carefully and add more sauce if desired. You can also add more of the reserved pasta water (as needed) to thin out the consistency. Add cooked peas and generously sprinkle the gluten-free breadcrumbs over top. Bake at 425F for 5-10 minutes just to let all of the flavours meld together. 

Do you struggle with eating gluten & dairy-free?
What helps you stay on track? Share with me below.

Have you tried this recipe yet? Share your recreations with me on Instagram @valeriepiccitto

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