Up until yesterday my go-to comfort food for fall was Kale Mac and Cheese. Folding vegetables into comfort food is perfect when there’s a slight chill in the air, and greens in cheese sauce doesn’t disappoint. The next logical step was to purée our crop of sweet butternut squash and fold it into a creamy sauce. The result is slightly sweet and herby with a hint of tang from goat cheese.
I checked out a bunch of other recipes to see what other people were doing with their Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, to balance out the sweet butternut squash I added a healthy dose of rosemary and 3 kinds of cheese. This is in no way “healthier”, but it definitely has a little less cheese and milk than other recipes. You could reduce the cheese even more if healthier is what you’re going for.
I used one of my favorite tips I found for butternut squash last season, stuffing the cup with herbs and garlic before roasting flesh side down. The aromatics infuse the flesh and then get puréed right in. This is also a great method for making flavorful butternut squash soups. See that cookie scoop in the background? I always use the sharpest spoon I can find for scooping out the seeds of a squash, and lately it’s always a cookie scoop.
This dish has a lot of steps, but yields a lot of servings making it worth the work. You can prep some things ahead of time, like the squash purée and noodles. The final results are a thick, hearty baked pasta which is similar to a classic mac and cheese, but not quite oozing with cheese. It’s on it’s way to becoming a fall classic on our tables, and hopefully yours.
Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese
1 butternut squash (to equal 4 cups puréed)
a few sprigs of rosemary
2 garlic cloves
12 oz tube shaped noodles (your choice)
4 oz goat cheese
1 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 1/2 cups of milk, plus more for thinning the sauce
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 425°F
Make the squash purée. Slice the butternut squash down the center and scoop out the seeds. Score the flesh, and stuff a garlic clove and a sprig of rosemary into each cup. Place the squash flesh side down on an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until the squash is very soft and starting to collapse. Let cool, remove the skin, and purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Add the garlic and rosemary (minus the stems) while puréeing. Set aside.
Reduce oven heat to 375°F
Cook the Pasta. Boil the pasta very al dente, it will finish cooking in the oven. 5 – 7 minutes should be enough time depending on the size and shape of the noodle. Drain and set aside.
Make the sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pot large enough to later hold the sauce, cheese, squash, and pasta. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until the flour mixture is starting to brown and smell toasty. Slowly whisk in the milk about a half a cup at a time. The mixture will be a little clumpy, but keep whisking and cooking over medium heat for 8 -12 minutes until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Turn of the heat and stir in the cheeses, mustard, and cayenne. Whisk in the butternut squash purée stirring until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. The sauce should be really flavorful, so it doesn’t taste bland after adding in the pasta and baking. The sauce should be thick, but if it looks too thick whisk in 1/2 – 1 cup more of milk.
Stir the pasta, then transfer the mixture to a buttered 9×13 pan. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the top is browning and the casserole is bubbling. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
Gluten Free Variation – You can make this dish gluten free and enjoy it! I recommend brown rice noodles (take extra care not to overcook), GF all-purpose flour, and homemade GF breadcrumbs or ground almonds.
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