This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of NOW Foods. The opinions and text are all mine.
Mac and cheese really is amazing in so many ways, but these crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside baked mac and cheese balls have got to be at the top of my list. The best thing about these, is that the creamy vegan cheesy sauce is all whole foods based, there are no processed ingredients. Everything is easy to find and the sauce is quick to throw together. The only issue is not burning your mouth as you try and shove them in your mouth straight from the oven.
The success of my creamy vegan cheese sauces has been awesome. I have created quite a few already: the Ultimate Cheese Sauce, Sharp White Cheese Sauce, Mexican White Cheese Sauce, and even a Green Mac and Cheese for fun. I have many cream sauces as well, so clearly we like our sauce. This didn’t stop me, however, from creating yet ANOTHER cheesy sauce for these vegan baked mac and cheese balls. This may be one of my favorite yet, and it was even approved by my picky little middle.
The thing that’s unique about many of my cheese sauces, is that I don’t use any nutritional yeast. I’ll be honest, I don’t really love the stuff. I know, it’s almost sacrilegious. But if there’s anything that I am, it’s truthful. I sometimes will sprinkle it dry on things, or include it sweets (see my Raw or Baked Pumpkin Layered Pumpkin Pie) because I think it does give a slight buttery taste in some sweet things. But I do not think it has a cheesy flavor. Sorry friends. But we all have our own tastebuds, so if you love it, then go with it! What this cheese sauce does include though, is all whole food ingredients. Things like veggies, cashews, vinegar and cashew milk; all in the right proportions to make this creamy cheesy like goodness.
Getting mac and cheese balls spot on can be tricky. You want them creamy, not dry and hard. You want the pasta chewy not mushy. And you want the outside crispy, not soft. I trialed and tested these using many different techniques and came up with a few must do’s when it comes to nailing the perfect baked mac and cheese balls.
Tips and tricks for nailing baked mac and cheese balls:
- Use good gluten free pasta (if you are going gluten free)- I cannot stress this enough. Not only does it need to be good immediately after cooking, but it needs to STAY good. The Living Now Quinoa Macaroni Pasta has the perfect texture, cooks amazing and it is still good as time passes. It is made with 3 simple ingredients: rice, quinoa and amaranth. That’s it. No added junk. Plus it tastes just like regular pasta, so when serving these at a party, no need to worry that anyone can tell.
- Don’t overbake. This is a tough one because you want the crispy outside and the tendency is to keep baking. After many trials and errors, I found that the perfect combo is to bake just until the coating begins to get crisp, then simply broil for a few minutes to get that uber crispness on the outside. This keeps the inside creamy and the outside crisp!
- Use lots and lots of sauce. It may seem like you’re oversaucing. But you aren’t. Trust me. There is never enough cheesy sauce.
- Instead of using the “put in a bowl, chill and scoop” method, drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet first, then chill. This is one that everyone will have different opinions on, and feel free to do it your way. But, I found that when I made my balls before I chilled, it was much easier, and way less messy. And I got the creamy cheesy goodness spot on.
- Make sure your cashews are good. I have had a bad traumatic experience with cashews. If you have too, you know exactly what I’m talking about. People, quality foods matter. This includes things like nuts! There is nothing more disappointing, and I mean nothing, that making a big batch of creamy cheesy delicious sauce only to take a bite and realize the cashews were bad. That was the last time I skimped on cashews. Luckily there are more good brands than bad out there, but I know I am always getting quality when I use the ones by NOW Foods.
- Save some cheese sauce to drizzle over the top or dip in while you eat. See 3 above, there is never enough cheese sauce.
Excuse me now while I go shovel more mac and cheese balls into my face. You’ll find me in the closet because that’s where I had to hide them so the rest of my family would stop stealing my goods.