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).
mostly veggie baked macaroni
- ¾ cups cashew cream
- ½ cup (uncooked) quinoa elbows (or any elbows)
- ½ cup chopped asparagus (tender parts only)
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup mini mozzarella balls, halved
- handfuls of fresh chopped basil and sage
- ¼ cup grated comté (or parmesan) for the topping
- ¼ 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
- ¼ 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 ¾ 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.
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.
I used Daiya Jack Cheese instead of mozzarella, and this was AMAZING. It impressed my husband and his dad, who I met the day I made this. Thanks for sharing!
so glad you (and everyone) liked it! I’ll have to try it with Daiya cheese next time 🙂
Apart from being allergic to dairy, I find mozzarella… boring. (Sorry everyone!) The jack substitute is rather on the sharp side, but we loved it.
ha, sounds delish – glad you liked it 🙂
Thanks for this delicious recipe! I made it tonight with broccoli instead of asparagus (just because it was what was on hand) and it is delicious. Love your site.
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That’s a great looking recipe, I was wondering if you think it will work as good with truffle oil? I bought some from here http://www.trufflehunter.co.uk/truffles/buy-truffles.php?c=Truffle-Oil and I am currently looking for great recipes like this.
Hi, ok, not one comment about 1/2 cup of quinoa elbows, hm, I have made this dish last night and I have used pound of pasta, 1/2 cup would not be enough for 9×13 dish………….or am I missing something?! Please let me know…….very delicious dish, loved it, no leftovers even with that amount of pasta, my son & husband cleaned it! Thank you, Sonja
I should probably specify that I used 1/2 cup uncooked, it more than doubles once it’s cooked. It filled my pan well enough (along with the veggies, etc) for 2 of us – glad you were able to easily scale it though! (I’ll add some notes to make that more clear for others, thanks for the feedback! Glad you liked it!)
Thanks Sonja and Jeanine! I’m making it right now and I had the same concerns with the amount of pasta as well. It looks delicious and I am so excited to see the end result!
I ended up using close to a half a box of uncooked pasta and added some extra veggies to get a full pan. I didn’t have cashews so I used some whipped cream cheese and thinned it out with some water.
This is amazing and I want to try it but for nutritional sake, I’m supposed to track everything I eat so does anyone know the calories per serving, and any other nutritional factors for this?
if you google for a calorie counter there are tons – and feel free to scale the amounts of oil/cheese to fit your dietary needs…
This looks so delicious! I love making comfort foods healthier by adding some greens. Can’t wait to try this out!
This looks totally amazing – love the green spring colours and veggies! 🙂
This is really very convenient that I’ve just found this because I’ve bought some asparagus to try and had no idea what to do with it! Well now I do so thank you!
This looks wonderful! I really want to try to make it and maybe adapt it and post it on our blog. Thanks for the cool recipe (:
My casserole is baking in the oven right now! Followed the recipe mostly as written. I’m using whole wheat elbows instead of quinoa, and I’m trying out the tarragon suggestion – and I’m subbing in plain yogurt instead of cashew cream, since I’m not vegan. Also because I very much wanted to make this for dinner tonight, and I’m super impatient 🙂 thank you for this delicious recipe!!
hope you liked!
This is beauuuutiful! And perfect for spring, too!
AMAZING with a side of vegetables on top! eeks! totally making this – thank you! and gorgeous photos… 🙂
This looks incredible and I want to make it asap! However, I am not vegan but love to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our weekly diet. Is there something I can use instead of cashew cream?
Some mascarpone cheese might be a nice easy substitution – just taste test for salt and maybe add some minced garlic.
This sounds ridiculously delicious and is now making my supper of sad leftovers seem even sadder. Those colors! POWsa!
Okay, this one is a winner. Yes, it can’t always be a perfect balance but I’d still say this is a pretty beautiful and balanced meal if you ask me. Love quinoa pasta and the cashew cream in this….will be trying this soon!