One of my biggest gripes about dairy-free and meat-free dishes is that chefs are always striving to replace animal-based ingredients with look-a-likes. For example, soy “milk” is such a terrible misnomer. If someone sat down to a big glass of soy milk and cookies and expected a mouthful of milky awesomeness they would be SORELY disappointed. Same goes for a veggie “burger.” Sure they are delicious but the vast majority taste nothing like a juicy beef burger, which only sets these dishes up to disappoint.
The same goes for vegan cheese alternatives. I think dairy-free/meat-free meals need a marketing makeover! Therefore I am not calling this dish a “vegan mac & cheese” because, honestly, if you sat down to a bowl expecting it to taste like your grandma’s pasta with heavenly orange cheese sauce you might be disappointed!
What this dish does deliver is a rich, creamy, savory sauce that has just the right amount of umami flavor to satisfy even the most cheese-crazed diner. By adding steamed cauliflower to the bake I have snuck in a delicious veggie while reducing the carb content. The slight sweetness of the cauliflower also compliments the sauce perfectly.
Baked Pasta and Cauliflower in a Creamy White Wine Sauce
Vegan, gluten-free, lower carb
8 oz gluten-free elbow pasta of choice (my favorite is Ancient Harvest’s quinoa pasta)
1 large head of fresh cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 TBS grape seed oil or other neutral oil
2 TBS Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 cup Chardonnay (I use Trader Joe’s Blue Fin Chardonnay, which will set you back less than $5 per bottle and still tastes good enough to finish the leftovers with dinner!)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup finely ground brown rice flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (must be fresh squeezed not bottled)
1/8 to 1/4 cup Tahini Sauce (I purchase mine in the cooler section of Trader Joe’s. It is usually situated by the humus)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
Fresh ground black pepper
Gluten-free or Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat 1 TBS grape seed oil in a skillet or wok that has a lid. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add cauliflower and about 1/2 cup water. Cover skillet and steam cauliflower until tender – about 7 to 10 minutes.
- While the cauliflower steams, boil your pasta according to the package directions.
- Once the pasta is done, drain and toss with 2 TBS Earth Balance. When cauliflower and onion mixture is done, drain off remaining liquid and add to pasta.
- For the sauce, combine remaining ingredients except pepper and breadcrumbs in a high-powered blender and blend until very smooth.
- Pour the sauce into a medium sized pot and heat slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the sauce thickens to the consistency of a lush cheese sauce, add it to the pasta and cauliflower mixture. Note: It can take a little while for the sauce to thicken. Be patient and keep stirring. It will come together in time and be well worth the arm work!
- Add a generous dose of fresh ground pepper and mix the pasta, cauliflower and sauce well. Pour into an oiled baking dish and top with your favorite gluten-free or Panko breadcrumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
- Enjoy with a side of green veggies and the remaining Chardonnay!