Monday, October 29, 2012

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

A guest post from the lovely Madelyn from Karma Free Cooking.

This recipe has been getting a lot of buzz around the folks at the SE Water Cooler on FaceBook. And I thought it might be of interest to your Cookistry readers too. This is the first recipe I did for my first official vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner since I started my blog, KarmaFree Cooking. And since then, it is still one of most popular recipes/posts there.  

This Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese packs a lot of nutritional punch and color from the butternut squash in the cheese sauce. You can substitute the squash for regular pumpkin. It works just the same.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Roasted butternut squash or pumpkin – about 1 pound
1 pound whole-wheat elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
2 cups reduced-fat milk
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
4 ounces of Shredded mix of melting cheeses – Mozzarella, Asiago, Fontina, etc.
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (also cream cheese will do in a pinch)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

First step is to roast the butternut squash…
1. Peel, remove the seeds and cut the butternut squash or pumpkin into 2” pieces.
2. Roast the butternut squash or pumpkin on a baking sheet by adding a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Massage the squash pieces so they’re seasoned all over. Roast in a 400F oven for about 45-60 minutes. Basically, until the squash is fork tender.
3. After it’s done, allow it to cool down a bit and puree in a food processor.

Now for the Mac and Cheese part…
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Bring a large pot to a boil for the pasta.
3. Meanwhile, start building the cheese sauce in a pot that’s big enough to accommodate the sauce and the pasta when it’s cooked. Over medium heat, bring together the milk, all the cheeses, the mustard, and pureed butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper. Your goal is to make a homogeneous cheese sauce where everything is blended and combined.  As soon as that’s achieved. Turn off the heat and set aside.
4. When the water boils, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender but still firm.
5. Drain the cooked pasta and transfer to the pot with the cheese sauce. Mix well together.
6. Transfer to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and some of the leftover cheese blend all over the top.
7. Bake for 20 minutes and then broil for 3 additional minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned. Everything is already cooked, so you’re just heating everything together and browning the cheese on top.

This recipe is delicious. The Dijon mustard gives it a different and grown-up taste. I hope you like it too. Tell me all about it if you try it.