This dish is, for me, what hot dish is for Minnesotans. My mom’s recipe for “Mexican Mac & Cheese” is one of the most comforting foods that I know. And as a vegan, I can’t exactly pound down the sour cream and cheese sauce like I used to. This recipe was high on my list for veganization, and I’m proud to report that it turned out perfect. It wasn’t one of those situations were it tasted “almost the same” or “sorta all right” but rather tasted virtually exactly the same as the original. Even my picky omni husband thought it was a pretty perfect rendition. So, enjoy!
Spicy Mac (serves 4 to 6):
- 8 oz shell pasta (I used brown rice pasta, because it’s what I had)
- 1&1/2 cup pinto beans (I used anasazi beans–if you can find them, they are the best beans EVER)–oh, and PS–if you’re using a can of beans, just use the whole can.
- 15 oz can Ro-tel
- 7 oz can of green chilies
- 1 small onion plus 2 T, diced
- 1 small bag of frozen peas, carrots & corn
- 2 tsp Tapatio (it’s like Tabasco sauce, but awesomer)
- 1/2 recipe for Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction
- 1/3 cup shredded vegan cheese
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (drained after being soaked in water for an hour)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
- 1 T red wine vinegar
First, start the water boiling for your noodles. Then, prepare the cheezy sauce. Once the water is boiling, put the noodles in and cook until almost al dente. You want them to still be a little stiff, or they turn to mush in the casserole. Now, in a large bowl, mix the small onion (without the extra 2 T, you’ll use that later), beans, Ro-tel, green chilies & frozen veggies together. Add the noodles, stir, and then add the cheese sauce. When everything is nicely coated in sauce, add the Tapatio. Put the mixture in a 13×9 (or smaller, just adjust cooking time) casserole dish, top with shredded cheese, and bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
While your delicious casserole is baking, make the cilantro-cashew cream topping (adapted from Vegan Brunch). This is so easy! Simply take the cashews, 2 T of onion (told you!), cilantro, red wine vinegar & water and mix in a food processor for anywhere from 2-5 minutes. You just want everything to be nicely smooth, with no chunks of nuts at all. If your food processor is like mine, the cashew cream will never come completely smooth. It’ll still taste pretty great, though. After blending, put the cream in the fridge to cool down.
When your casserole is done, take out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. You don’t want to burn your face on hot noodles. When serving, remember to put about a tablespoon of cilantro cashew cream on top of each, and you can always put on as much Tapatio as your heart desires.