I have been experimenting a lot lately with cashews. Cashews are a mild tasting nut, super versatile and nutrition power house. Noted as one of the healthiest nuts it aids in heart health, supports brain function and improves nutrient absorption of foods it is eaten with.
It amazes me how soaking cashews can turn into a creamy decadent sauce when blended. Cashew sauce is an amazing invention (one I wish I discovered but did not). It’s a great alternative for those who cannot tolerate dairy, gluten or wish to eat vegan as it contains only plant-based ingredients and no milk, cheese or flour as most creamy sauces contain. It’s also a great substitute for those looking to increase the nutritional value of their meal as cashews are a great source of protein, essential minerals, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.
I’ve used the base of this cashew sauce (sans the butternut squash as an all-purpose sauce) for numerous dishes, like alfredo sauce, mac and cheese, twice baked potato filling, topping to my soups or chili, etc. But one of my all time favorite ways to use cashew cream is in this recipe! It’s a very easy recipe and you won’t even realize there are cashews in it.
I blend soaked cashews with some onion, lemon juice and garlic to create a delicious creamy and flavorful base. To this sauce I also blend in nutritional yeast which lends to a “cheesy” like taste. Without the butternut squash, the sauce makes a great base sauce but I wanted a “mac & cheese” type dish. So I roasted fresh butternut squash and pureed this with a little water until creamy and smooth which gives a great orange color to look like “cheese” sauce. To the butternut squash I add the cashew cream sauce until it created a creamy consistency to mix with pasta noodles. Taste is creamy and flavorful with a subtle sweetness from the butternut squash shining through. This sauce pairs perfectly with pasta noodles making for a healthier mac and cheese-like dish, without the cheese!
Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast from saccharomyces cerevisiae. Nutritional yeast is a significant source of B-vitamins and often lends a cheesy flavor to foods it is added to.
I used elbow pasta noodles from Banza which uses chickpea flour to create a high protein, gluten-free (GF) pasta. I really liked this pasta. It was not too starchy and didn’t become a sticky mess like some of the corn-based GF pastas can be. It had a great neutral taste so it worked well with this recipe so the sauce could really be the star.
I also really like broccoli in my mac & cheese so I threw in some of that too but you can absolutely leave that out and by all means add some cheese if you like! I’d recommend something like shredded gruyere or another good melty cheese.
This dish is really perfect for Fall. I’ll be enjoying a bowl of this for a cozy night in!