Saturday, October 15, 2016

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

Here is a repost of one of my favorite fall recipes featuring winter squash. It is a mac and cheese that is full of veggie goodness but you would never know. It gets a rich orange color and a full flavor from the addition of butternut or other winter squash puree.
Many are afraid of cooking with butternut because they think it must be peeled or chopped while raw. But for recipes like this one, the squash only needs to be cut in half or in quarters and then roasted . You could even pierce a whole butternut multiple times and then microwave it for a few minutes to soften the shell before cutting. After roasting according to the recipe, it is very easy to peel or scoop out the squash and then puree it. You could substitute frozen squash from the freezer section or even canned pumpkin. Or try some of the specialty winter squashes like the sweet buttercup or the fluffy kabocha; just cut and roast them like butternut.
Feel free to use less cheese if desired, it will still be tasty!

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

About 10- 12 side dish servings, 8-10 entrée sized portions

1 medium Butternut squash or buttercup squash or
kabocha or even canned pumpkin  (about 2 1/2 cups pureed)

1 1/2 TBSP butter

2 -3 TBSP flour

2 cups low fat milk, slightly warmed (may need more)

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, maybe about a tsp.

½ tsp.  fresh grated nutmeg, Onion powder, paprika, thyme 

¼+ tsp. garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper

1 lb. pasta, hearty variety cellantani or elbow would be good choices, whole grain if desired

1/3 cup Greek yogurt, optional

1 1/3   cup Swiss or gruyere cheese, shredded

1 1/3   cup sharp or extra sharp cheddar, shredded

1/3 cup parmegiano reggiano, grated

2-3 large tomatoes (or use 4-5 roma tomatoes)

About ¾ cup panko bread crumbs (whole wheat is best if you can find them)

Another 2 Tablespoons Parmegiano regiano

First, cook the squash. I prefer roasting it for added flavor and color. To roast, you may wash and cut it into quarters .  OR you could peel it whilst whole and cut into cubes, which will cook a bit faster. Discard seeds or save them to roast like pumpkin seeds. 
Place squash into a rectangular baking dish, which you may line with foil. Add a little water and cover with foil, baking at 350 for about 45 minutes (30 minutes for cubes) and then uncover and cook for 15 minutes more.  Let it cool and peel if you have not yet.
Another method you could use to cook squash: simmer squash cubes on the stovetop in a large pot with water, about 25 minutes and drain.
 Once butternut is cooled. You may mash by hand or puree in a food processor with a bit of water.
Squash may be cooked and mashed ahead of time. Keep refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 375.
In a large pot, melt butter and add flour, cook for two minutes.
 At the same time, heat salted water in large deep pot for pasta. Once it is at a lively boil, add pasta. Keep the water boiling. Check for doneness
 To the butter and flour, add warmed milk and whisk or stir vigorously. Add the mashed squash and spices. Stir and cook for 8 minutes or so. If it looks too thick you can add a bit more milk.
Remove from heat and add Greek yogurt if using. Then stir in cheeses, mixing thoroughly.
Add well drained pasta and then place into a large rectangular dish that is lightly oiled ( I like to spray olive oil with misto sprayer).  
In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter and add panko crumbs stirring for about 2 minutes. Add 2  TBSP parmesan cheese, grated, salt and pepper if desired.
Thinly slice tomatoes and place on top of pasta. Top with bread crumbs and bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

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