My mac and cheese isn't actually cheesy at all but, if you're allergic to dairy and wheat/gluten, you won't miss the cheese in this homey dish!
Many years ago, I asked readers to submit their favorite allergy friendly recipe creations. Kim of New Jersey shared this recipe that she called "My Mac and Cheese".
Those of us with food allergies know that avoiding allergens takes some creativity and thinking outside of the box. It also sometimes means being OK with leaving out ingredients that are right in the name of a dish. In this case, cheese.
That's right, this mac and cheese does not contain cheese. Kim submitted this recipe long before there were good non-dairy cheese options so it probably seemed more appealing to create a dish that was reminiscent of mac and cheese but omitted cheese altogether.
While it doesn't taste cheesy, it looks just like mac and cheese. My two sons who do not have allergies, love it as much as my two allergic sons. I have also used pureed sweet potatoes, which is delicious too!
Preparing the butternut squash
The "cheese" sauce for this dish starts with cooked butternut squash. You have a few options here:
Roast a whole butternut squash in the oven. To do this, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, lay the halves face down in a baking dish, put a little water in the bottom of the dish (about ¼ cup is plenty), and cover it with foil. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes. You'll have to let it cool a bit before you can scoop out the squash. At this point, it is practically pureed so blending it with the remaining ingredients will be easy.
Kim shared that she puts ½ cup portions of squash in Ziploc bags and freezes them. That would be a huge time saver when making this dish!
Cook a whole butternut squash in a pressure cooker. Again, cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Next, put about ½ cup water in the bottom of your pressure cooker, place the trivet at the bottom of the pot and place the two squash halves on the trivet. Put the pressure cooker cover on, make sure to put the pressure valve to "sealing" and then cook on manual, high setting for 12 minutes. Do a quick release and carefully remove the cover. Allow the squash to cool enough to handle and then scoop out the inside.
Buy frozen cubed squash. I was recently at Aldi and found that they had little steamer bags of cubed, cooked butternut squash. So convenient! All you need to do here is heat it up enough so it can be pureed. Easy peasy!
Making the sauce
Once the squash is cooked well enough to be pureed, place it in a blender or food processor with the rice milk. Also note, you can use whatever dairy free milk you like. We don't avoid soy in our house so I often use plain soy milk.
Once that mixture is smooth, add it to a small saucepan along with the dairy free margarine. Cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Then just keep it warm until the pasta is ready.
I like to use elbow macaroni or shells for this recipe because it reminds me of real mac and cheese! I think Tinkyada is the only gluten free brand I have seen that has these pasta shapes. Tinkyada makes a great gluten free pasta that doesn't get mushy and holds it's shape nicely when mixed with a sauce.
Putting it together
When the pasta is cooked and you've heated the squash, milk, and margarine, then it's ready to combine the two. Season with salt and pepper to taste and you're ready to eat!
When I was a kid, mac and cheese was a standalone dish. Now, though, I like to have a vegetable and protein with it! My favorite is a grilled chicken breast and a serving of cooked broccoli - yum!
If you are looking for ways to add calories to your little one's diet (or your own), this is an easy recipe to do that with. Just add a couple tablespoons of extra margarine (or other fat) to the recipe or a teaspoon or two to an individual portion. The dish will taste even richer but the texture will still be the same.
Thank you for sharing your recipe, Kim!
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My Mac and Cheese
- ½ cup pureed butternut squash see notes above
- ½ cup rice milk
- ¼ cup dairy free margarine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces gluten free pasta cooked according to package I use elbow macaroni or small shells
- Mix puree, milk and margarine together and bring to a low boil. Pour over cooked pasta. Serve immediately.
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