On very rare occasions, my mother would purchase Velveeta Shells and Cheese. The smooth, creamy goodness that was packed with salty, delicious flavor. Man, I loved that stuff. If it had been less expensive, I am sure I could have talked her into it more often.
This vegan shells and cheese recipe takes inspiration from Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Much like the beloved boxed cheesy pasta, the vegan cheese sauce is blended until it’s super aerated, creamy and smooth. But then, the recipe goes to the next level, topping the vegan cheesy shells with sliced heirloom tomatoes, crisped garlicky breadcrumbs, and fresh scallions. It makes a terrific side or meal.
Vegan Shells and Cheese
16 ounce bag of shell pasta
3 Tbsp vegan butter
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups water
½ cup shredded carrots
⅓ cup nutritional yeast
½ tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder (plus more for sprinkling the bread crumbs!)
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 ¼ cup shredded vegan cheese (I used Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 large heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
1 scallion, chopped
Olive oil, to drizzle bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 8″ X 8″ pan, and set aside. Prepare pasta shells according to directions on bag, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt vegan butter, and then, stir in flour to create a paste. Add the water and whisk continuously over medium-high heat until it thickens.
2. Once the sauce thickens, stir in shredded carrots and continue whisking over medium-low heat for 4 more minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in nutritional yeast, dijon, garlic powder, turmeric and salt. Stir in ¾ cup of the vegan shredded cheese.
3. Add contents of the saucepan to a blender or use an immersion blender, and blend until very, very smooth. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if needed (more salt? more nutritional yeast? more vegan cheese?).
4. In a small mixing bowl, drizzle bread crumbs with some olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Toss around, and then, set aside.
5. Add ½ cup of the vegan cheese sauce to the bottom of the 8″ X 8″ pan, and spread evenly over the bottom. Add the shells and top with the remaining sauce. Mix the shells around until everything is evenly coated. Top with ¼ cup of vegan shredded cheese. Add a layer of tomato slices, and top the tomatoes with the remaining ¼ cup of vegan shredded cheese. Top with bread crumbs.
6. Bake uncovered at 400 F for 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, top with chopped scallions and serve.