Total time: 30 minutes || Active time: 30 minutes
I don’t know how this happened, but I guess I’m a tomato farmer. Tomatoes are all I’ve thought about all summer. If I’m traveling, I don’t wonder about my boyfriend and cats, I wonder about my tomatoes. Are they getting enough nutrients? Are they getting the right amount of water? Do they need trimming? Are there any pests pestering them? And, most importantly, do they miss me like I miss them?
After a few snafus this past Spring (who expects snow in May?!) my babies finally got going. And even now in mid-September, most of my plants are still producing juicy orbs of ridiculous deliciousness. So of course I’ve been using them in everything. And, well, one thing led to another and I guess I don’t have to tell you, that this is how BLT Mac & Cheeze was born.
Being late summer, I really wanted this mac to be gardeny. If you have a garden, or a CSA, or just want to use some in-season produce from the grocery, maybe you’ll appreciate that. So I made the “B” out of eggplant (remember: vegans will make bacon out of anything.) For the “L”, arugula is always prolific in the garden, plus I love its muskiness, which goes perfectly with the bright and smoky flavors of the other ingredients.
The “cheeze” sauce is just something I threw together, very similar to the Chipotle Mac, but without the pepperiness and perhaps a little more noochy than usual. It’s just a nice creamy backdrop to the more assertive flavors its tossed with.
And there you have it: BLT Mac & Cheeze. I hope your summer has been as fruitful as mine (literally and figuratively) and I can’t wait to share some fall recipes with you soon!
~For time management: Get the oven preheating and the water boiling, then prep the eggplant. Once the eggplant is in the oven and the pasta is boiling, you have plenty of time to prep the tomatoes and puree the sauce.
~I was making this for a friend who is sensitive to garlic (I KNOW!) and so I didn’t use it. If, however, you NEEDS your garlic, throw a clove or two into the sauce while it’s pureeing.
~I used gluten-free noodles here, and actually, I usually do with Mac-N-Cheeze. I just prefer them. They stand up beautifully to the sauce, and tend not to get mushy as leftovers. But you obvs can use whichever noodles you love! I recommend Tinkyada brand. (I used shells, but they have a macaroni, too.)
~If you forgot to soak the cashews, have no fear. You can boil them for the same creamy effect, and still have this on the table in 30 minutes. Just submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, and proceed.
~Oh and hey, if you’re doing the oil-free thing, you’ll be happy to note that this recipe is completely oil free if you leave the cooking spray off of the eggplant bacon recipe.
8 oz small shell pasta or macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or chopped regular tomatoes)
1 recipe Eggplant Bacon
For the sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours (see note above)
1 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the sauce: Drain the cashews and place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender this could take from one to five minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you want it just a little saltier than you think because it’s going to be poured over all of the other ingredients.
When the macaroni is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt again.
Now toss in the arugula, tomatoes and eggplant bacon, leaving a little extra aside to garnish if you like. Serve!