Macaroni and Cheese with Portabella and Peas

A lot of people mistakenly think I’m vegan, and that No Meat Athlete is a vegan website.  Maybe that’s because most of the recipes I’ve posted recently are from vegan cookbooks.

But I absolutely do not want potential vegetarians to be scared off, thinking it’s gotta be vegan or nothing.  By most people’s definition, you can be a perfect vegetarian and still enjoy milk, cheese, butter, and eggs.

Why I’m Not Vegan (Yet)

You’ll likely find that as you become accustomed to eating less meat, animal products as a whole become less appealing.  And that’s why I (and many others) have started out vegetarian and tended towards veganism.  But I’m not there yet, and I don’t want to make it a rule that I can’t eat any animal products.

If not eating meat were strictly about health for me, I wouldn’t need to call myself vegetarian.  I’d eat meat maybe once a month as a special treat, about the frequency with which I eat any other unhealthy food.  But it’s not just about health—it started out that way, but the act of eating less meat made me aware of the fact that on those occasions when I did eat fish, I was actually eating an animal.  Once it became about that, I became completely vegetarian.

Veganism, right now, is still about health to me.  I recognize that milk and cheese are pretty sucky for my body.  And I rarely eat them, for that reason.  Dairy and eggs don’t yet seem gross to me the way meat does; I don’t feel the same guilt eating a bite of cheese as I do eating the meat of what was once a living animal.  And that’s why I’m not quite vegan yet.

I’m moving that way though.  I blame Earthlings.

Gloriously Gluten-Free

If you haven’t guessed it yet, the purpose of that prelude was to introduce the first non-vegan meal I’ve posted in a while: Portabella and Pea Macaroni and Cheese.  (Vegans, you are dismissed early today; check out Mac n’ Chard, an unbelievably good vegan mac n’ cheese recipe.)

This recipe comes from a new book Wiley Publishing sent me to test-drive, The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook.  But wait a minute: It’s not vegetarian, I’m not celiac, so why am I cooking from it?

Well, it has an index of vegetarian recipes, and there are quite a few of them.  And Brendan Brazier argues in Thrive that gluten slows a lot of us down, not just those with a recongized allergy to gluten.  So I’m interested to learn a bit about gluten-free cooking.

The macaroni and cheese turned out pretty well.  I loved the concept, with the portabellas and peas in there.  And for the amount of dairy in the recipe, the sauce turned out really nice and light, with a fresh flavor from the white wine.  My biggest problem with it was that there were lots of white specks in the cheese sauce.  When in doubt, blame the potato starch.

And I forgot the paprika.  Dammit.

Here’s the recipe.  Again, it’s from The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook, by Vanessa Maltin, published by Wiley, 2010.

Portabella and Pea Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese with Portabella and Peas
Serves: 4 Servings
  • One 1-pound package gluten-free elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 cups thickly sliced portabella mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt
  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and peas and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, mix the potato starch with 1 tablespoon of water to make a paste. Pour the paste into the milk and wine mixture and cook, stirring rapidly, until the sauce thickens.
  4. Slowly stir in the cheeses and cook, stirring, until they are fully melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika.
  5. In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, cheese sauce, and vegetables. Add salt to taste.


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  1. YUM! I love peas in mac n cheese. Its like the perfect veggie addition. Others I love are squash and roasted cauliflower. I’m not sure I could go full vegan. Not that I eat a ton of cheese or yogurt, but I’d really miss both (and find them to be good additional sources of protein).
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Taste of the Nation: Greenville, SC =-.

  2. i totally agree with you on all the points above – when i started eating less animal products, i genuinely craved them less! i still eat them, just much more infrequently.

    hope all is well matt – happy tuesday 🙂
    .-= holly (the healthy everythingtarian)´s last blog ..May is our month. =-.

  3. I just bought the book and I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe!

  4. That mac ‘n cheese looks amazing!! I was happy to see a non-vegan recipe on here this morning. 😉 I also eat less dairy products now than I did when I first became a vegetarian, even though it wasn’t ever a conscious decision. However, I do find that that cheese and eggs are pretty important staple in my diet. Plus, I have a slight obsession with ice cream that I’m not sure I could ever give up….
    .-= Lauren (Health on the Run)´s last blog ..I survived! =-.

  5. This cookbook sounds awesome…and thank you for highlighting the important distinction between vegan and vegetarian. I am slowly drifting into vegan land but not quite there yet.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Green Beans, You Beautiful Things =-.

  6. Taking that final step to veganism could be scary and difficult if you don’t have a reason like you do with being a vegetarian. I try to limit my dairy because of stomach problems but sometimes a big bowl of Mac n cheese (no Kraft please!) hits the spot. I love the veggies added to this recipe.

  7. That looks so rich and creamy. I bought gluten-free macaroni when I realized gluten doesn’t work for me; I neglected to consider that I don’t really use macaroni much or have any recipes. But now I think I’ve found mine.
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..For The Sake Of Sanity =-.

    • Evan, I’m interested to know how you know gluten doesn’t work for you. I’ve heard lots of people say this but I’ve never noticed it for myself. What sort of symptoms are there?

      • I know many people have different “symptoms” of a gluten allergy…for me it’s inflamation in the joints of my wrists and ankles (Dr.’s have said it’s related to rhumatoid arthritis), and skin irritations. And then there’s the bloating! Different symptoms for different people, but I’d say if you have any issues, cut out the gluten and see if they subside. Hope that helps : )

  8. Rachel says:

    Once you go off dairy, after a certain amount of time elapses, the human body loses the enxymes necessary to process dairy proteins. I’m not vegan yet either, but I have given up dairy because I discovered it was irritating my allergies and making my asthma worse (can’t run when you’re wheezing). I’ve found the vegan substitues for cheese and cocnut milk-based yogurt and deserts really fulfill that creamy craving for me. And I’m slowly learning how to veganize any recipe. Thanks for sharing Matt!

  9. Mmmm, though I’m not vegan at the moment (baby and all) I do mostly eat vegan and I also strive to keep my gluten intake on the DL.

    Way to keep eating healthy in perspective. I like seeing how you evolve and how it works.

  10. I don’t eat meat for health reasons ( sometimes), however I don’t even miss them when I don’t eat them.

    Mac&Cheese is the ultimate comfort food!
    .-= Sana´s last blog ..I am moving to LA….. =-.

  11. When I saw the title, I got really excited to try a new vegan mac ‘n chuyze recipe… until I realized it wasn’t vegan.. and then I was sad 🙁
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..A Sunday in the Life Of Our Newfound Stray =-.

  12. You said that beautifully, Matt! There is a reason I am not vegan yet… but I will be, one day! It all takes time 🙂

    .-= Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble)´s last blog ..Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice =-.

  13. Looks yummy! I might have to add this recipe to my must tries. I’m always looking for new things to eat.
    .-= Ok Chick´s last blog ..National Teachers Day =-.

  14. I don’t eat alot of dairy but mac and cheese is my thingMac and Cheese is the one thing that I don’t try or even want to “healthy up” or try vegan substitutes. It’s such a comfort food and SO DELICIOUS (and also my food of choice after long marathon training runs).

  15. i think i know what i want to eat for dinner now

  16. I know that going vegan is very difficult, but I am stumped as to how you can say that vegetarianism is about animals, yet veganism is only about health.

    Egg laying hens are arguably the most abused animals in our factory farms and male baby chicks are ground up alive because they are useless to the egg industry.

    Dairy cows’ lives are just as miserable as their beef counterparts, plus their calves are slaughtered for veal, and when their milk production wanes, dairy cows are slaughtered for ground beef.

    I don’t mean to preach and I’m not even a strict vegan myself, but I do think it’s important to know that ALL animal products are causing pain & suffering, so if your reasoning for vegetarianism is linked to animal welfare, veganism must also be considered for animal welfare because either way, animals are being abused and killed, you just may not be eating the dead carcass.

    If you’re interested, here are some of my posts about
    Egg-laying hens:

    and Dairy cows:

    • Angie, I absolutely agree with you that the cruelty done to dairy cows and egg laying hens is just as bad as to those animals who actually die. Earthlings taught me this. And I’m looking forward to reading your posts, because in some way I like learning this stuff. I like it because on an intellectual level, veganism feels right to me, and the more I read about it and see what’s happening, the more I am able to internalize it and make it gut-level.

      And that’s what I mean when I say that for me, veganism is still about health. It’s because I don’t yet have that same sick feeling about eating eggs or dairy that I do about eating meat. I understand it in my head, but I don’t feel it like I do with eating meat. But vegetarianism started with health too, and progressed to becoming about not wanting to eat living things (so I stopped eating fish then). My guess is that the same will happen with veganism. I’m just not there yet.

  17. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, and this recipe sounds great, but I really disagree with some of the things you say here. Most of the people that I know that are vegetarians, even those that have been for as long as a decade, absolutely love cheese. While some people may be turned off by milk, particularly the industrially produced kind, I know very few people that find eggs, cheese, yogurt, or ice cream, unappealing because of the fact that they are animal products. I also think that it’s a rather broad, sweeping statement that milk and cheese are “sucky for my body.” As a woman, and thus being susceptible to calcium deficiencies, I find that buying non-fat, locally produced, hormone and antibiotic free milk is a great way to up my calcium intake.

    • Ash, I don’t think any statement I make about what I think is good for MY body can be considered broad and sweeping. To me, milk and cheese are an indulgence; on a regular basis I’d rather get calcium, protein, and whatever else they have to offer from other sources that do not have what I see as the downsides of dairy.

  18. I put the recipe is a calorie calculator, and it said that this recipe is almost 1,000 calories (956)
    Is it really that much? Or could I have just calculated it wrong?
    Hm, it seemed healthy, lol.

    • Laura, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were that much. There’s really a lot of dairy in it. However, this site is about eating for endurance training, so I wouldn’t say having 1000 calories makes a meal unhealthy. I usually view more calories as a good thing.

      Still, this recipe has many of its calories from fat, so it’s definitely not something I’d eat every day.

  19. Where do I find potato starch (would it be at WF and if so what will it be near)? Also, what in your opinion are the best veggie dogs that I could make to go with this?

  20. Hi Matt. I think it’s great you are so understanding and supportive of people where they are and where they want to go diet wise.

    Having said that, and you probably already know this, I’ve made so many “cheezy” recipes with vegan ingredients. Even this recipe a lot of substitutions can be made…vegan butter, soy milk instead of regular milk.

    But if I were to veganize this, and it would not be hard and, I would take a “cheezy” vegan recipe from my “not cheese” vegan cookbook and use that. There are so many options really to get that feel, flavor, etc.

    Anyways, love your site.

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