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Vegetarian Bolognese mac and cheese bake

Vegetarian, gluten free, FODMAP friendly, adaptable to be vegan
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time30 mins

Equipment

Ingredients

FOR THE VEGETARIAN BOLOGNESE:

  • 1 450-500 g packet firm tofu frozen the night before
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium fennel bulb finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and allspice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tins of plain tomatoes

FOR THE GLUTEN FREE MACARONI AND CHEESE:

  • 75 g 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons gluten free cornflour
  • 3 cups lactose free milk plant milk would probably work too
  • 100 g sharp aged cheddar freshly grated
  • 50 g freshly grated gruyere or another cheese that is good for melting
  • 75 g finely and freshly grated vegetarian parmesan
  • Seasoning to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg, optional
  • 250-300 g packet gluten free macaroni, cooked al dente

TO FINISH:

  • Additional cheese for the top (I like a combination of cheddar and gruyere)

Instructions

TO MAKE THE VEGETARIAN BOLOGNESE

  • Defrost your tofu using your preferred method. You can unpack it and steam it, let it sit on the bench as you would mince, or put it, package still on, in warm water. Once it has defrosted it, squeeze the excess moisture from the tofu and tear into fine, mince like pieces. Set aside.
  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet or pot over a low-medium heat. Sautee the finely chopped fennel in the oil for 15 or so minutes, until it is golden brown. It should resemble caramelised onion.
  • Add the apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Tamari, brown sugar, spices and tomato paste. Stirring thoroughly, allow to reduce in volume until a dark brown paste consistency forms. Add the red wine or water, and continue to cook until that reduces by about half.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the torn tofu and make sure it is completely coated in sauce. Allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes for the tofu to absorb the flavour of the sauce.

TO MAKE THE MAC AND CHEESE

  • Melt the butter in a medium - large pot over a low-medium heat. Once it has completely melted, add the cornflour, and use a whisk to combine. Allow the mixture to cook for a minute or so, before adding the milk. I read that the best bechamel is made with cold milk, so that’s something to keep in mind.
  • Whisk the sauce intermittently for around 10 minutes, depending on the heat level. Don’t panic if it’s taking a while – it will get there with some patience. Once the sauce is sufficiently thick (it should easily coat the back of a spoon) and add the grated cheese. I like to add it in a few lots, just to make sure it is evenly incorporated. Season to taste (you might need a little salt, and a little freshly cracked pepper/nutmeg is nice) Remove from the heat.
  • Add the cooked gluten free pasta to the sauce, and stir combine.

TO MAKE THE VEGETARIAN BOLOGNESE MAC AND CHEESE BAKE

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the Bolognese evenly in a 31 x 23 cm rectangular baking dish. Mine is 5cm in height which proved the perfect capacity, but you could always divide the bake into 2 if you only have smaller dishes. Top this with the macaroni mixture, and finish with a fine grating of cheese. I like to use a combination of cheddar and gruyere for flavour and meltiness.
  • Place the bake into the oven for around 20 or so minutes, until the cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling. Turn the oven to grill, and brown the top of the bake for 5-10 minutes, making sure you keep an eye on it.
  • Once the top has browned to your liking, remove from the oven and serve.