Let’s face it. Sometimes you just need a warm, gooey bowl of mac and cheese. But that doesn’t mean it has to be pedestrian. It’s easy to add some grown up flare to an age old dish like macaroni and cheese.
The inspiration for this dish came from one of my favorite cookbooks: the best of 2007, Annual Food & Wine. Even if you’re vegan or vegetarian and have to completely disregard the meat/poultry/fish sections, the Food & Wine cookbooks are SO worth it solely for the inspiration. So many great chefs contribute to these cookbooks, it’s impossible not to find some worthwhile recipes.
The pasta section is probably my favorite in this one. It has great sauces, even a raw tomato sauce by Ani Phyo that I love.
The pan fried leeks are my absolute favorite part of this dish. You’ll never throw away those tough green tops again after making these!
1 1/2 c sliced leeks, more green than white (save the white for another recipe)
5 T earth balance or butter of your choice
Salt & pepper
3 T all purpose flour
2 c almond or soy milk
1/2 c shredded cheese, (I used a block of Daiya jack cheese) I know that some people have commented that they don’t have Daiya where they live and I would suggest trying any non-dairy cheese in its place. You could alternatively skip the “cheese” altogether and just season with a bit extra salt, onion & garlic powder and nutritional yeast.
2 c uncooked pasta, I used quinoa elbow shaped pasta. Spaghetti or another long strand pasta wouldn’t work well here, use rigatoni, penne, elbows or small shells.
1/4 panko bread crumbs
3 T nutritional yeast
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
Add sliced leeks and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.
Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low.
Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
Make the cheese sauce while the leeks are cooking.
Heat a saucepan over medium low heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.
Add the flour and whisk to combine into a smooth roux.
Add milk and bring to a gentle boil while whisking.
Turn heat to low and whisk until sauce thickens slightly, should only take a few minutes.
Remove from heat and add shredded cheese, salt & pepper to taste.
Stir to combine until smooth.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add your pasta.
Cook until almost al dente. A minute or so less than the cooking time on the package should be sufficient.
Drain pasta and mix leeks, 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce and the drained pasta in a large mixing bowl.
I usually save some of the cheese sauce to pour over the top but if your mix looks to dry feel free to add it all.
Pour your pasta into a baking dish, I use an oblong shaped ceramic dish that’s about 9 x 5.
Bake at 350 for 18 minutes, remove and sprinkle a few tablespoons of panko and nutritional yeast over the top.
Continue baking but raise heat to broil for another 5-7 minutes until slightly browned.
Let sit for a few minutes before serving.