I’ve had a hankering for mac and cheeze for a couple of days now, but I also had some canned tomatoes that needed to be used up. I remembered having seen recipes online for ‘chili mac’ – something I was altogether unfamiliar with. From what I can tell by looking around online, chili mac can be basically whatever you want it to be – vegetarian versions use anything from tofu to TVP to beans, you can make it spicy or mild, add vegetables or not, and so on. Susan over at the FatFreeVegan Kitchen has a veg-heavy version, but I wanted mine to be more tomato-y. I love tempeh, so that was my first choice for the chili portion. Slightly spicy, and with a thin layer of mustardy cheeze sauce, this was definitely tasty. If you ARE familiar with what a proper chili mac should be, and I have made a dish that is remarkably improper, blame it on the fact that I’m Canadian! (And fellow Canadians, I hope for the sake of my dignity that you are as un-educated in the ways of the chili mac as I am) : )
I had big plans for trying to take good photos, but when I pulled this out of the oven (around 7PM), it might as well have been the middle of the night – a huge storm blew through and it was super dark out! Edited to add: apparently the storm was actually several tornadoes – someone was killed and parts of Ontario had huge amounts of damage. Yikes!
Vegan Chili Mac with Tempeh:
Preheat oven to 350F.
-2 1/2 c. dry macaroni pasta (I used brown rice pasta to make this gluten free – if you’ve never had brown rice pasta before, I urge you to try it, even if you don’t eat gluten free. My gluten eating boyfriend agrees – this stuff is way better than regular pasta!)
-8 oz. tempeh, broken into chunks and steamed or boiled to remove the bitterness
-1 medium onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, crushed
-3 tbsp. chili powder
-1/2 tbsp. prepared mustard
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-1/2 tsp. cayenne
-14 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes (mine were somewhere in between, since I had hand diced whole tomatoes)
Prepare the pasta, but cook it only until it’s nearly done – it should be slightly more chewy than you might otherwise want it, since it will finish cooking in the oven.
Use oil or water to cook the onion in a frying pan over medium heat until it is translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for about a minute more. Add the spices, tomatoes and mustard and stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer, and let it cook down while you wait for the pasta to finish cooking. When it has thickened up to a sauce consistency, take it off the heat.
Crumble the tempeh chunks into a large mixing bowl.
While the pasta and sauce cook, prepare the mustardy cheeze sauce. You could use your favourite cheeze sauce here – I like this one for the casserole because it is super simple and not at all rich.
-1 c. unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
-1 tbsp. cornstarch
-1/4 tsp. dried mustard powder
-1/8 tsp. turmeric
-heaping 1/4 c. nutritional yeast flakes
-salt and pepper, to taste
-In a small pot, combine everything except the nutritional yeast, and make sure all the lumps are out. Add the nutritional yeast and stir again. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Stir constantly (or not, but prepare to eat lumps!) until it has thickened up considerably – maybe around 5 minutes? – a pourable consistency, but not thin enough to ooze straight through the noodles.
Add the cooked, drained pasta and the sauce to the mixing bowl with the tempeh, and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings if need be, and then scoop into a large casserole dish. Pour the cheeze sauce over, and top with tomato slices.
Bake, uncovered at 350F for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are browning and the tomatoes on top are cooked through. Leave it to settle for a few moments before serving – it will be neater.