I’ve been tweaking this recipe for years. You’ll notice that I prefer Cavatappi to the traditional noodle choice of Macaroni Elbows but you can use any noodle in your pantry. I find that Cavatappi inter-locks together and has more surface area to hold on to the cheese.
1 lb. – Cavatappi (Boiled for half the time listed on the box. It will continue to cook in the oven and absorb the cheese.)
6 Tblsp. – Earth Balance Buttery Spread (I prefer the soy-free version)
1/4 c. – Flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour but you can use the flour of your choice.)
4 c. – Almond Milk (You can use the plant milk of your choice.)
1/8 tsp. – Cayenne or Chili Powder (You may be tempted to skip this. I promise you won’t taste it and it won’t result in a spicy dish.)
1/8 tsp. – Ground Nutmeg (Again, don’t skip this even though you may be tempted too. You won’t taste it but like the Cayenne, it’s necessary.)
2 tsp. – Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (optional)
1 c. – Panko Breadcrumbs (I prefer Kikkoman)
WHAT TO DO:
~ Boil your pasta according to the box’s directions for half the time indicated. Drain and transfer to your casserole dish. Set aside.
~ In your empty (but still warm) pasta pot, heat 4 Tblsp. Earth Balance until melted — use the lowest setting on your stovetop. Once melted, add your flour and whisk together. You’ll have a very thick paste.
~ Now add the milk, cayenne, nutmeg and sea salt. Whisk together well. Turn the heat up a bit and bring to a simmer – 2 to 3 minutes. The mixture is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
~ Keep your pot on the burner. Quickly whisk in the shredded cheese and parm, until smooth. Remove from heat and pour over your pasta, which should be in a casserole baking dish. Gently fold, as needed, so you don’t break any cavatappi. (You can also add the pasta to the pot of cheese and mix there, if you’re concerned about the dish getting messy.)
~ Now sprinkle the top with Panko. (TIP: Adding some dots of Earth Balance Buttery Spread to the top will result in more of a crust on top.)
~ Bake @ 375° for 40 to 60 minutes, or until bubbly & golden.