Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Salsa Mac-n-Cheese (or in this case Cheeze): Easy, Creamy Vegan Pasta Goodness

Rick Bayless' Salsa Mac and Cheese is a easy way to change up a classic dish. I love macaroni and cheese but since cheese and dairy don't love me back and clog up my breathing, making and eating a batch of it isn't in my best interest. Thus the beauty of the vegan cheeze sauce--it has much of the taste and texture of a dairy-based cheese sauce but I don't find myself regretting it the next day. Plus it has much less fat than the original and no cholesterol--can't beat that.

Since it's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I have been salivating over this mac-n-cheese mixed with salsa after seeing versions of it on some of my friends' blogs, I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a vegan version. And, why not make it gluten free since I had some GF pasta and chickpea flour in the pantry. My changes are in red below.

Salsa Mac and Cheese (or Cheeze)
Adapted from Rick Bayless.com (Recipe available online here )
(Serves 8--as a side dish)

2 Tbsp butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used chickpea flour)
2 cups milk (I used hemp milk--it was open) ;-)
1 1/2 to 2 cups of your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a vegan cheese sauce--recipe below)
salt, about 1 1/2 tsps
1 pound dried pasta of choice (I used gluten free fusilli)
(2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish)
(2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts to garnish)

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes.  (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.)  Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. 

Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted.  Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done. (Or make the vegan cheeze sauce recipe below and add to pasta)

Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro to the sauce and stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro and toasted pine nuts and enjoy.


Vegan Cheeze Sauce
Adapted from Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

 2 Tbsp vegan margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups soy, almond, or rice milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp agave
In a medium saucepan, whisking margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes to make a roux. Add the nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, smoked paprika and garlic powder to the pan and whisking briskly, bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and agave and adjust salt and seasonings to taste.

Notes/Results: Quick, easy and delicious. Since the cheese sauce (vegan or not) is whipped up while the pasta cooks, you can have this dish on the table in about 20 minutes--longer if you make your own salsa of course. I just used the remains of a jar of Rick's Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa. I garnished my dish with some chopped cilantro and sprinkled on toasted pine nuts for texture. This mac-n-cheese was creamy, a little spicy and zippy from the salsa, and a great comfort food dish that I will make again.

You can check out the Potluck creations from the other IHCC participants by going to the post and following the links.

I am also sending this dish to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by my friend Heather of girlichef. She'll be rounding up a bevy of pasta dishes on her blog Friday--so stop by and check it out.



  1. Was it Kim who made this a few weeks ago?  Or heather?  Either way, I drooled then and I'm drooling now also!  The question is, do I make the cheese or cheeze sauce...

  2. Oh, this looks great.  Although I love my cheese and dairy, I'm still tempted to try a vegan version...just so I know how it tastes.  I'm so impressed with your ability to veganize pretty much anything!  Thanks for sending this over, Deb =)

  3. oh my goodness -- that looks so dleicoius!

  4. I've been wanting to make the salsa mac and cheese too.  Like those pine nuts added in!

  5. This looks so delicious and creamy! You really have me thinking that I want to try making a vegan version one day.  Love the idea of some toasted nuts for texture.

  6. Natashya Kitchen PuppiesJuly 2, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    I am intrigued by the salsa mac and cheese -sounds like a winner! 


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