Healthy, oil free butternut squash and hummus mac and cheese. This vegan version of the classic uses protein packed hummus to add a cheesy flavour – no nutritional yeast needed.
Cheesy pasta used to be my go to comfort food, and it’s been a struggle to find a really good vegan mac and cheese since giving up dairy. Especially because I can’t seem to learn to like nutritional yeast despite my best efforts. Most butternut squash mac and cheese recipes you see are made with nutritional yeast, often with a cashew base, and they’re just far too sweet (not to mention expensive). The colour is right but that’s about it. That’s where the hummus comes in – it gives that savoury, slightly cheesy flavour and keeps the pumpkin from making this taste like a dessert, with a good bit of mustard to establish that this isn’t a sweet dish. Not using cashews speeds everything up since you don’t need to remember to soak anything beforehand. My sister has been asking for more recipes that don’t require soaking, so I’m on it!
This is a 15 minute dinner, especially if you use a quick-cooking noodle like elbows, and I imagine it’s something kids would like as well as adults. I found some emmer macaroni and used it here. Emmer is great for pickier eaters because it tastes quite a lot like white pasta, much like Kamut. Any whole-grain pasta will be good and of course you can use your favourite gluten-free noodles to make this dish gluten-free. A couple handfuls each of spinach and frozen peas add extra veggies and a little colour, and I find without them I tend to get a bit bored of this dish after about half a plate (which is when I would have mixed ketchup into my mac and cheese 10 years ago).
I know it’s a bit strange to be using butternut squash in April, but we’ve been getting it locally for the past little while. If you can’t find it, I guess either wait until autumn or risk using sweet potato! Or just mix up a batch of my sweet potato hummus and toss it on some noodles in the same vein as this creamy hummus pasta. Depending on what type of hummus you use, this can be made oil-free if that’s something you’re thinking about.
I was a bit worried that this might be something that only long-time (hippie/whole food) vegetarians would like, but I gave a big container to a friend and she ate the whole thing – enough for at least two people – as soon as she got home, without heating it up, right out of the container. I think that was what really convinced me to share the recipe, and I’m sure that just about everyone would enjoy it.
Luxe Butternut Squash Hummus Mac and Cheese
- 600 grams / 1/2 medium butternut squash
- 230 grams / 3/4 cup hummus
- 175 ml / 3/4 cup nondairy milk*
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Juice of a lemon ~3 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt**
- 500 grams / 1 package elbow noodles
- 200 grams / 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 50 grams / 2 cups baby spinach or other greens
Cut the squash into small pieces, about 3cm, and place into a medium pot with a few centimetres of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, then add the hummus, milk, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Using an immersion blender or standing blender (make sure it's suitable for hot ingredients), blend until smooth. Taste and add seasoning if needed.
Cook the noodles in salted water according to the package instructions while the squash is steaming. Add the peas in the last couple of minutes, then drain and stir the sauce into the noodles. Add the spinach and stir to wilt it, then serve hot. It's best eaten fresh but leftovers will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
• You can also roast the squash, either in pieces or cut down the centre and roasted cut-side down for about 40 minutes at 200C / 400F. If you like batch cooking, you can roast the squash ahead of time and heat up the sauce when you blend it.
* I use oat milk. Avoid a sweeter milk like cashew or coconut for this recipe.
** This is almost definitely less salt than you'll need, but since hummus varies widely, you'll have to taste and see how much you need for personal preference.