This Gluten Free Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese with Pecan Breadcrumbs is my favorite mac and cheese to date, and I’m a mac and cheese fan! It is hearty, creamy, and comforting. Absolutely nobody will be able to tell that you snuck cauliflower and butternut squash into the sauce of this fabulous mac and cheese! Adult and kid-friendly, and so delicious! Made in partnership with the American Pecan Council.
This dish is the perfect alternative to conventional Mac & Cheese! Sneak those veggies into the creamy, cheesy sauce (bonus if you add in the broccoli) for the perfect comfort food, made more wholesome!
I am so excited to partner with the American Pecan Council for today’s post. I love swapping out traditional breadcrumbs for these, heart healthy, spiced pecan breadcrumbs! They are the perfect, nutritious topper to this unique mac & cheese pasta dish!
A handful of pecans (about 19 halves) is a good source of fiber, thiamin, zinc, and an excellent source of copper and manganese – a mineral that’s essential for metabolism and bone health. Pecans also have power-packed protein and in every 1-ounce serving, you’ll get 12 grams of “good” monounsaturated fat, with zero cholesterol or sodium, making this dish even more nutritious!
This dish is made with gluten-free pasta, and the breadcrumb alternative that can also be used to bread chicken or fish! Pour on that creamy cheese sauce, mix it all together, top with fresh cheese, and then BAKE! Then add those spiced pecan breadcrumbs. SO GOOD.
Use your favorite gluten-free pasta to make this dish work for anybody’s dietary restrictions. The breadcrumbs would be great on top of baked fish, roasted veggies, as a breadcrumb mixture for eggplant parmesan, stuffed peppers, on a salad, and so many other fabulous dishes!
Creamy Cheese Sauce
- 2 heaping cups butternut squash, diced
- 2 heaping cups cauliflower florets, cut small
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, more to taste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice, use more if your sauce if looking really thick
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, more as desired and more for topping
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, more as desired and more for topping
- 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 16-ounce package of gluten-free pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed (see notes)
- 1/3 cup additional cheese, for topping
- Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butternut squash, cauliflower, sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Pour in vegetable broth and cover the skillet. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
- While butternut squash cooks, cook pasta according to package instructions and steam the broccoli. Once pasta is done cooking, strain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Mix with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking and set aside.
- Add the butternut squash, cauliflower, and what is left of the vegetable stock into a high-speed blender. Add cheeses, non-dairy milk, 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter, and dijon mustard. Blend until creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Place pasta and steamed broccoli in a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of sauce at a time over pasta and broccoli until the pasta is well coated and as cheesy as you like it. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired!
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Pour Mac & Cheese into a baking dish. Top with the additional cheddar and parmesan cheese and bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
- While the Mac & Cheese is baking, make the pecan breadcrumbs: Pulse pecans in a food processor until a sand-like consistency is achieved. Mix in optional spices if using.
- Once the Mac & Cheese is done, sprinkle with pecan breadcrumbs and broil on low for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Serve and enjoy!
- When tasting your sauce, feel free to add more cheese to it!
- You can omit the cayenne, chili powder, and garlic powder in the pecan topping if desired!
- The cheese sauce yields 4 cups. You might have about 1 cup leftover depending on how cheesy you like your mac & cheese! Store the leftover cheese sauce in your fridge for up to one-week.
- Steam broccoli: Cut broccoli into 2-inch florets. Place a steamer insert into a medium pot. Add a little water, cover and bring the water to a boil. Place broccoli florets in the pot and steam for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to pasta once cooked.
This post is sponsored by the American Pecan Council. All thoughts and opinions are always 100% my own! I love pecans and the farmers who grow them! Thank you for continuing to support LCK and the brands I work with!