Sometimes life is not all about balance. For example, this is by no means a perfectly balanced mac and cheese (I know, way to sell it, right?). There’s some cheese in here, but nowhere close to four cheeses. Nothing is truffled, or bacon-ed, or cauliflower-ed. There’s some mac – but, all and all, it’s pretty light on the (quinoa) pasta to “other stuff” ratio.
This is the kind of filling, yet, not-over-the-top meal that I like to eat in an every day sort of way. These days, in particular, I’m into meals that are overwhelmingly jam packed with green things.
I also happened to have all of these items in my fridge, so this was also a total impromptu weeknight meal. If you have some cashew cream leftover (like I did), it’s especially quick to put together.
This came about as I was getting ready to toss those (above) ingredients together into a salad like this… but since I can’t even follow my own recipes, I got the last-minute idea to switch it up and bake this thing instead.
Since no green meal is complete without unmeasured handfuls of fresh herbs, I plucked and added some basil and sage from my yard. I usually think of sage for fall, but it really added a nice rich flavor in contrast to all of the fresh, bright things. (Although, I think tarragon would offer a nice savory note as well).
And just to un-vegan and un-gluten-free things, I added some panko and grated comté cheese to form a crispy crust. Which – really – sounds fancier than it is. Jack always grabs handfuls of random cheeses from the remnant bin at Whole Foods so we always have interesting assortments on hand. Feel free to use parmesan or pecorino if that’s what you have. (Or see the notes below to adjust this to actually be vegan or gluten free, if need be).
- 3/4 cups cashew cream
- 1/2 cup (uncooked) quinoa elbows (or any elbows)
- 1/2 cup chopped asparagus (tender parts only)
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1/2 cup mini mozzarella balls, halved
- handfuls of fresh chopped basil and sage
- 1/4 cup grated comté (or parmesan) for the topping
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- a generous drizzle of olive oil
- pinches of red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
- 1.5 cups cashews, soak overnight & drain
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup water (more if necessary)
- salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Use a high speed blender to blend all ingredients for the cashew cream. Taste and adjust seasonings, set aside.
- Coat the bottom of a 9x13 (or similar) baking dish with a little olive oil.
- Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
- Toss about 3/4 cups of the cashew cream with the cooked pasta. (I did this right in my baking dish to dirty less dishes). Add the asparagus, peas, mozzarella, herbs, a few pinches of salt & pepper. Fold everything together so that all ingredients are coated and evenly disbursed, then gently press it into the pan to form an even layer.
- Top with grated comté (or parmesan), panko bread crumbs, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper & a few pinches of red pepper flakes.
- Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Gluten free version: skip the panko bread crumbs
Vegan version - omit all cheese and use more cashew cream.
No-bake version: blanch veggies (for about 30 seconds in boiling water), then toss everything together and serve in bowls.