The inspiration for this recipe came from my husband whose favorite childhood dishes include macaroni and cheese (made with spaghetti).
Although I know it would go down very well with my kids too, it’s just unthinkable for me to serve a dish without any veggies.
Creamy cauliflower and cashew sauce
So I looked for a way to create a creamy white sauce with healthy ingredients and I started experimenting with cashew nuts and cauliflower, two ingredients with a fairly mild flavor.
I added some onion and garlic to jazz up the taste, as well as parmesan for an extra cheesy flavor and crust.
The result was a healthy and warming dish which my kids and husband loved at first bite.
Make it dairy-free or gluten-free
Should anyone at your dinner table have a problem with dairy, it’s possible to replace the parmesan with nutritional yeast, a dairy-free cheese substitute often used by vegans.
If gluten is your problem, simply use gluten-free pasta such as rice, lentil, or buckwheat pasta.
Vegetarian or not?
We like to add about a cup of ham cubes to the sauce for extra flavour, but feel free to make it vegetarian and leave out the ham.
White or whole pasta?
To my clients I always recommend eating whole wheat pasta because white pasta just provide sugar-rich empty calories that will spike your blood sugar. However… I find this recipe tastier with white macaroni and I also think it’s perfectly fine to sometimes pick taste over health. Moreover, the sauce is full of veggies, healthy protein, and good fats, which will help keep the effect on your blood sugar under control.
About 2 adults + 2 children
5 cups (300g) macaroni
4-5 cups (600g) cauliflower florets (about 1 medium cauliflower)
½ cup (70g) cashews, soaked 4-12h or 15 minutes in very hot water in case you forgot
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped or crushed
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp. grated parmesan + ½ cup (55g) for topping (replace with 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast for a dairy-free version)
½ tsp. salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup (150 g) ham, cut in cubes
*Unless stated differently, my recipes are measured with US measuring cups like these ones.
Soak the cashew nuts overnight in cold purified water (or at least 4 hours in advance, or 15 minutes in hot but not boiling water if you totally forgot to do so).
Heat the oven to 210° C (410° F).
Steam the cauliflower until tender.
Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and cook the chopped onion and garlic over medium heat until soft and transparent.
Add to your blender together with the drained and rinsed cashew nuts, steamed cauliflower, vegetable stock, parmesan (or nutritional yeast for a dairy-free version), salt and pepper.
Blend until smooth. Adjust taste if needed, adding more salt, pepper, or cheese/yeast. Feel free to add some fresh parsley at this point (not before blending or you’ll end up with a greenish sauce which will raise suspicion ;-)).
Drain the macaroni, add back to the pot and stir in the sauce. Add the ham cubes if using. It might seem a lot of sauce at this point, but trust me this dish calls for lots of sauce, otherwise it will be too dry.
Transfer the macaroni and sauce to an oven dish greased with olive oil. Top with the remaining parmesan.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Make the sauce in advance so you just have to mix it with the macaroni and bake in the oven.
Or make the whole dish on Sunday and keep it up to 3 days in your fridge. All you need to do is heat it up for a lazy after-work night.
And make sure to always make a double batch of the sauce and freeze half of it.