Monday, January 26, 2015

Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese


When I get a craving for a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, I always head straight for my family's recipe. It's not too rich, extra cheesy and is Italianized by adding tomatoes to the base and using Italian breadcrumbs as the crispy topping. It's OMG SO GOOD and always, always hits the spot. I have so many delicious mac and cheese recipes saved and I haven't once ventured into new territory.

I changed that over the weekend when my sister and I cooked up this delicious Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Butternut squash in your beloved macaroni and cheese may sound like a strange combo but trust me, it works in all of the right ways. This dish is perfect for the chilly months, especially when butternut is abundant and in season. It's slightly sweet with a hint of spice and every bite is perfectly creamy thanks to a sauce that is made with roasted and pureed butternut squash. I wanted to eat the entire top crispy layer because it was what (comfort) food dreams are made of. 

Snuggle up on a snowy night with a bowl of this butternut goodness.

Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese
Recipe adapted via Two Peas and Their Pod

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1/2 lb. cavatappi pasta
2.5 cups milk, divided
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a large bowl, drizzle butternut squash chunks with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Arrange evenly on the baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.

While the squash is cooking, cook pasta according to instructions on box until al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the butternut is done roasting, transfer to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the milk and pulse until the milk and squash are combined. 

In a large skillet or french oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the nutmeg and whisk in the flour, whisking constantly. Add the remaining two cups of milk and whisk until smooth. Turn the heat up to high and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a boil. Once the sauce is thick, turn the heat back down to low and whisk in the butternut squash mixture. Stir in the rosemary, then add the pasta and toss until it is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil. Add half of the pasta mixture to the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/2 cup the aged cheddar and 1/2 cup of the sharp cheddar. Add the remaining pasta on top of that, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Sprinkle the panko in an even layer on top. Drizzle with olive oil. 

Bake mac and cheese for 25- 30 minutes, until it is nice and bubbly. 

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