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Friday Food:Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

veggies.jpgI’m not really a fan of the whole “hiding” veggies in recipes thing ala Jessica Seinfeld/Missy Chase Levine. To me, veggies are so good, I want people to experience them in all their wholesome splendor, not pureed in a loaf. However, while I may not have children with finicky tastes, I do have a husband who is a picky eater and eats around all “green things”. This recipe, courtesy of St Louis’s own Alanna at Veggie Venture, one of my favorite food blogs, takes a comfort food favorite for kids and adults alike and adds the sweetness of a in-season vegetable that’s widely available and incredibly versatile. Here in the midwest, you can find almost all of the ingredients from a local source–not an easy task with winter approaching. Winter squash is packed with beta-carotene, B vitamins, and fiber, adding a much-needed nutritional boost to the dish. You can also roast the squash seeds like you would pumpkin seeds–they’re a tasty snack.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Serves 4

To prepare the squash:

1 two-pound butternut squash

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut squash in half, lengthwise and rub cut side with olive oil. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast for 60 – 75 minutes or until completely cooked and soft. Scoop out flesh while still warm and break apart with a spoon. Timing-wise, finish the squash roughly the same time the pasta and the sauce is cooked so that it’s still warm.

NOTE: For a ‘less squashy’ and more ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’ version, use half the roasted squash in this dish, reserving the other half for something else.

For the noodles:

Salted water

4 ounces (about 1 cup) elbow macaroni

Cook macaroni in salted water. Let drain well. Timing-wise, finish the pasta and the sauce about the same time.

NOTE: For a ‘more mac ‘n’ cheese’ version, use up to 16 ounces of macaroni.

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion, chopped small

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup whole milk

16 ounces cheddar cheese or any good melting cheese (if in a brick, sliced or cubed)

In a saucepan, melt the butter on MEDIUM heat til shimmery. Stir in the onion as it’s prepped, then the nutmeg and white pepper, cook til onions soften. Stir in the flour and mix well. A tablespoon at a time, add the milk, incorporating each tablespoon well before adding another. (If you add it all at once, or without working in each time, there’s risk of ending up with a lumpy sauce.) Stirring often, let the sauce come almost to the boiling point, it will thicken slightly. Add the cheese and let melt, adjusting temperature so that the sauce won’t boil. (It’s not a disaster if it does, since it’s going into the casserole, but it’ll look curdled.)

COMBINE In a large bowl, break the squash apart, mashing it really, with a wooden spoon. Stir in the hot, drained pasta and combine well, distributing the squash throughout. Stir in the sauce and combine well. Transfer to a greased baking dish. If you like, sprinkle the top with pimenton or paprika. If making ahead, let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

BAKE Return dish to room temperature. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes til hot and bubbly throughout. To add color to the top, place under the broiler for 2 – 3 minutes, watching carefully so not to burn. When covered with foil, holds its temperature for a good 30 minutes.

Recipe: Veggie Venture

[This post was written by Kelli Best-Oliver]


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