There are about a million recipes for vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, but this one is different from all the others. Most recipes rely on anywhere from one to four cups of raw cashews for the base of the sauce; however, this one doesn’t have a single cashew in sight, making the ingredients much less expensive. And unlike other cashew-free, plant-tastic cheese sauces, this one is made with yellow split peas, which add a rich texture, hearty flavor and punch of protein. Thanks to the split peas and nutritional yeast, one batch of this velvety cheese sauce boast an impressive 60 grams of plant-based protein. The next time someone asks you where vegans get their protein from, you’ll have the most enticing answer ever: “mac ‘n’ cheese!”
Combine the split peas and water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and decrease the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 40 minutes to one hour, or until the split peas are very tender and mushy. Strain off excess water. Note: Split peas vary greatly in their cooking time, but you want them to be nearly fall-apart tender so that they blend up velvety and smooth. If they’re undercooked, your cheese sauce will have a subtle grit to it, and no one wants that.
While the split peas are cooking, steam the potato, onion, and garlic in a steamer or steamer basket for 20 to 30 minutes, or until fall-apart tender. (Avoid steaming in the microwave because it will dry out the potato.) Shake off excess water that accumulated while steaming.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain and return the cooked pasta to the pot.
Add the cooked split peas and steamed potato mixture to a high-speed blender along with the almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tamari, apple cider vinegar, paprika, and sea salt. Blend on low speed for 10 seconds to get everything moving, increase the speed to high, and continue to blend for two to three minutes, or until velvety and smooth.
Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. It will initially seem like there is too much sauce, but the pasta will grab onto it as you stir.
Generously season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to four days.
• To keep this dish nut-free, simply swap out the unsweetened almond milk for a nut-free plant-based milk.
• To keep this dish soy-free, swap out the reduced sodium tamari for coconut aminos.
Reprinted from Blissful Basil. Copyright ©️ 2016 by BenBella Books. Photographs copyright ©️ 2016 by Ashley Melillo.