A few weeks ago when I was trying to use up some ingredients languishing in my pantry, I made the ugliest mac and cheese ever. I had some leftover no-boil lasagna noodles that weren’t enough for a whole pan, so I broke them up into squares and cooked them. My idea was to make this mac and cheese with some roasted poblano peppers in it. At the last minute, I threw in some sautéed portobello mushrooms.
The portobellos turned the yellow cheese sauce gray. Between the broken lasagna noodles and the yellow-gray sauce, the dish was so ugly, I was telling “yo mama” jokes about it.
Yo mac and cheese is so ugly, it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every ugly branch on the way down.
I hid the pasta with some bread crumbs and baked it.
Yo mama is so ugly we put bread crumbs on her.
Oh, but my ugly mac and cheese was so, so delicious. I had to figure out a way to make it pretty enough that everyone else could appreciate it too. So I replaced the portobello with a blend of button mushrooms and creminis, traded some of the poblano with a red bell pepper, and made it as lasagna. This time, my pasta was beautiful; I only topped it with bread crumbs to keep the cheese sauce from burning.
I made this in two pans, one to bake right away and one to freeze and bake on another night.
- 2 poblano peppers, about 8 ounces
- 1 red bell pepper, about 4 ounces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 fat clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine or neutral-tasting oil, like canola
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2-1/2 cups almond milk (see note)
- 1 (8-ounce) package Daiya mozzarella flavor vegan cheese shreds
- 1 (8-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles, 12 noodles
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs, from about 1-1/2 ounces/slices of bread
Place peppers on a baking tray (use one that you don't mind burned stuff sticking to). Broil until skin begins to blacken, turning over to lightly blacken all sides. You don't need the skin to be completely black; your goal here is to make it separate from the pepper, not to burn it off. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag or wrap in a piece of wax paper and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Sauté the mushrooms until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Transfer to a bowl. When the peppers have cooled enough to handle, peel off the skin. Slice the pepper open lengthwise, slice around the stem, remove the seeds, and discard stem and seeds. Cut the pepper into short, thin strips and add to the mushrooms.
Wipe out the skillet. Melt the margarine (or add the neutral-tasting oil). Stir in the flour. Over low heat, slowly stir in the almond milk and whisk until there are no lumps. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens. Add cheese and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until cheese melts.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or two 8 x 8-inch ones. Spread about 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of the pan (or divide between two). Top with a third of the noodles, half the mushrooms and peppers, and a third of the cheese sauce. Make another layer the same way. Finish with the remaining noodles and cheese sauce. Top with bread crumbs and bake for 25-35 minutes, until bubbly at the edges and hot in the center.
This recipe includes extra almond milk to hydrate the no-boil lasagna noodles. If you make this with noodles that are already cooked, reduce the milk by 1/2 cup.