Author: Tom McCorkle & Lisa Cherkasky from the Washington Post
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 20 min
Makes: 6 servings
Tomatoes add the sort of tang to this pasta's creamy sauce that you would get from sharp cheddar, while miso and nutritional yeast provide umami and a nutty depth.
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup loosely packed sun-dried tomatoes, preferably not oil-packed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed
- 1 pound small dried pasta shells
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (may substitute tapioca flour)3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons white or yellow miso (optional)
- 6 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton, sweet or hot)
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
- Roasted, unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), for garnish
- Freshly cracked black pepper, for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cashews and boil for 8 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and boil for 2 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the cashews and tomatoes; transfer them to a blender (preferably a high-powered one such as a Vitamix), along with 2 cups of the cooking water.
2. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the remaining water in the pot. Once the water returns to a boil, add the pasta shells and cook according to the package directions until tender. Drain.
3. While the pasta is cooking, add to the blender the cornstarch, nutritional yeast, miso, if using, the basil, garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend on HIGH for about 2 minutes, to form a very smooth sauce.
4. Pour the sauce into the now-empty pasta pot, then place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sauce begins to thicken, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot and watching for splatters and pops. (Use a splatter guard, as needed.)
5. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cooked pasta; keep stirring until the sauce becomes thick and gooey, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
6. To serve, chop some of the extra cashews. Divide the mac and cheese among serving bowls, and top with chopped cashews, basil, red pepper flakes, pumpkin seeds and black pepper.
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