ABSOLUTELY TDF CREAMY VEGAN GRAIN-FREE MAC n CHEESE

Once in a while a food product comes along that is a total game-changer, and that's how I felt when I took my first bite of Banza chickpea pasta.

In my quest to manage inflammation - the source of most chronic health conditions - both in my clients' bodies and in my own, I am always looking for ways to cut gluten and refined grains from the diet while minimizing the feeling that something is being sacrificed or given up. Unfortunately my experience with many gluten-free products is not only do they taste terrible (aka my disastrous Bob's Red Mill gluten-free pizza night), but they are actually terrible for balanced blood sugar. The term "gluten-free" is often labeled and marketed as a healthier alternative when in fact the opposite is true. 

Many many gluten-free pastas, breads, crackers and snack foods are loaded with potato starch, refined rice flours, and other glucose-spiking ingredients that send blood sugar into a tailspin. There are some brands for which I'll make an exception and eat sparingly - like Bread SRSLY sourdough - but for the most part, best practice is to steer away from gluten-free processed food products entirely and film your plate with gluten-free whole grains, sweet potatoes, and of course fibrous vegetables and proteins.

So when Banza sent me a few boxes of their chickpea pastas to try I was thrilled. Banza delivers a gluten-free, so-free, non GMO, vegan, low-glycemic index pasta that has 2x the protein, 4x the fiber, and half the net carbs of standard pasta. And not only that, it's freakin DELICIOUS!

Once I cooked it up and took a bite, making a cashew-based creamy vegan cheese sauce laced with garlic was just a natural next step.

FOR CREAMY VEGAN GRAIN-FREE SPINACH MAC n CHEESE YOU WILL NEED:

serves 4 with leftovers (which you will DEFINITELY want)

- 2 boxes of Banza chickpea pasta

- 1C raw cashews soaked overnight in water (if you forget to soak overnight, soak in boiling water for 1 hour)

- 1/4C nutritional yeast

- 1 tsp garlic powder

- 1 tsp onion powder

- 1 tsp ACV or lemon juice

- salt to taste

- 1 bag organic baby spinach

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling add 2 boxes of Banza chickpea pasta and set a timer for 9 minutes.

In a Nutribullet or high-powered blender (this is the one I use), combine the soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, ACV (or lemon juice), 1/2C water, and 1/2tsp salt. Blend until creamy and there are no chunks. You've now made a vegan cheese sauce! Taste the sauce and addd more salt as needed.

In a medium APEO & PFOA-free skillet, heat 1tsp of olive oil, avocado oil or grape seed oil (any neutral tasting oil).  Add the spinach and cook on medium, tossing occasionally, until the spinach is just barely wilted and then remove from heat.

Once cooked through drain the pasta (reserve 1C off the pasta cooking water), and then put the pasta back into the pot. Add the cashew cheese sauce so the skillet with the spinach and stir the spinach and sauce together. Then pour the cheese sauce into the pot with the pasta, and toss to combine. You may want to add a bit of the pasta cooking water in 1/4C increments to thin the sauce. Taste again and add just a touch of salt if needed.

Serve in pretty pasta bowls with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. 

This pasta makes for delicious leftovers hot or cold, and lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator.

RecipesJamie Klausner