This creamy cheesy pasta dish couldn’t be easier; and, it’s pretty tasty too.

The sauce, made with cashews and butternut squash, is actually somewhat sweet, which is accented nicely with the addition of smoked paprika, an ingredient that is a must for this particular recipe.

Smoked paprika can be found in many specialty spice stores or online, and even though the price may seem slightly high, a little bit goes a long way. Plus, chances are that you’ll love it so much that you’ll want to put it on everything, so it will be worth every penny. Try it sprinkled on whole salted avocados, mashed potatoes, grits, rice dishes… even veggie based drinks. Yes.

To easily cook the butternut squash, preheat your oven to 350 °F and cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and rub the flesh with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (each) and a little bit of minced garlic. Add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and place on the middle rack, uncovered. Cook for 45 minutes, or until completely softened. Reserve 2 cups puree for the following recipe:

Smokey Butternut Mac and Cheese

  • 16 ounces brown rice pasta, macaroni, penne, fusili, shells all work well
  • 2 cups cashews, soaked in water at least 3 hours and drained
  • 1  1/2 to 2 cups almond milk, to thin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups chopped (and de-stemmed) kale
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Cook the pasta according to package directions, undercooking just slightly by a minute or so. Drain well and rinse completely with cold water to remove any starch.

Transfer the pasta back to the pot and set aside. I like to stir in a drizzle of olive oil at this point to keep the pasta slick, but it’s not necessary.

Place the soaked and drained cashews, 1 cup almond milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, cooked butternut squash, nutritional yeast, garlic, and 1  1/4 teaspoons salt into a food processor. Blend very well, at least 7 minutes, until completely smooth and silky, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add about 1/2 cup more almond milk until thinned, pulsing between each addition. Add the sauce to the pasta in the pot, and then stir in the remaining almond milk to thin. Warm up gently over medium-low heat, stirring often until desired temperature is reached. Sprinkle on the smoked paprika and fold just to combine.

In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, toss together the kale, coconut oil and sea salt and saute for about 3 minutes, or until bright green and slightly wilted. Stir into the pasta and serve immediately.