This spicy take on mac and cheese also happens to be vegan and gluten-free. The sauce is made primarily from sweet potatoes, but you’d never know it.

Here are some of the health benefits of the ingredients:

Sweet potatoes support healthy digestion and elimination by providing about 7 grams, or 26% DV, of fiber, per serving. They can also help keep acne at bay, thanks to the super high Vitamin A content.

Garlic may help lower cholesterol levels when consumed daily, and has been shown to exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Chile Peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that has been found to support the metabolism, aid in fat burn, and even protect against certain cancers.

Here’s the recipe:

Southwestern Mac and Cheese

Prep

Cook

Total

A vegan and gluten-free take on a classic dish.

Ingredients

SWEET POTATO SAUCE

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1 cm cubes

2 tsp. + 3 Tbsp. avocado oil or coconut oil, liquified

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

⅓ cup tapioca flour

2 tsp. salt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. hot sauce

1 tsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. fresh lime juice

PASTA

8 oz chickpea pasta, or favorite gluten free pasta

TOPPINGS

3 cups of broccoli florets, chopped finely into small bite-size pieces

½ green chile, sliced thin (optional)

chickpea crumbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, toss the sweet potato with 2 teaspoons of oil to coat thoroughly, lay out flat on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes until pieces are tender but not browned. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook according to package directions, and simply add the broccoli 30 seconds (if chopped small) to 1 minute (if slightly bigger pieces) before the pasta is done to quickly cook it. It will turn bright green. Drain. (Conversely, you could steam it separately, for 5-7 minutes, or until tender and bright green.)
  3. Meanwhile, while waiting for water to boil, combine one heaping cup of roasted sweet potato with 2 cups of almond milk in a blender. Process until smooth. Reserve any remaining sweet potato to use as topping for pasta. Set aside the sweet potato milk.
  4. Next, heat a skillet over medium heat, add the 3 tablespoons of oil and slowly add the flour, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. Continue whisking about 3-5 minutes, taking care not to burn the flour. A nutty aroma will develop, which is when you can stir in the remaining ingredients: the sweet potato milk mixture, salt, garlic, hot sauce, mustard, soy sauce, and lime juice. Whisk often, bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer for about 10 minutes, or until pasta is done. The sauce will cook down and get thick.
  5. After the pasta and broccoli have been drained, pour into the skillet with sweet potato sauce, and if you have additional sweet potato cubes, add them as well. Stir well to coat.
  6. Transfer everything to a casserole dish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. To serve, top it with additional green chiles, chickpea crumbs, and a tiny bit of hot sauce for color.

Notes

If you want to speed this recipe up, you can omit the last step of baking the cooked pasta. It's still delicious without baking.

MariaMarlowe3Author: Maria Marlowe is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who has helped thousands of people improve their health by optimizing their diet. She has created meal plans and programs to help you lose weight, clear up acne, and spend less time in the kitchen yet still eat healthy.  

She has been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, NBC, Well + Good, and more. Her first book, The Real Food Grocery Guide, will teach you how to eat healthy without going broke.

Download her free 3-Day Real Food Challenge Meal Plan, check out her site, www.mariamarlowe.com, or follow her on  Instagram @MariaMarlowe and Facebook for more healthy recipes.