Monday, November 23, 2009
Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese
Macaroni and cheese has to be one of the most comforting and satisfying meals. Sometimes, however, by the time you get the macaroni and cheese creamy and saucy enough, the overall effect can be too “cheesy”. Enter this recipe—one of my all-time favorite macaroni and cheese recipes. The butternut squash provides a smooth, rich presence that enriches the dish without overwhelming it. Mom and Dad brought us some winter squash (sweet meat), so that is what we used this time instead of butternut squash. It worked just as well. If you’re preparing your own squash, be sure to puree it very well (we use a food processor and sometimes a blender as well if necessary) to ensure the squash is very smooth without any distracting fibers.
Bart made this for us for dinner tonight—and we all loved it. This is a recipe we look forward to every year when we get winter squash. We freeze the extra squash so we can enjoy it throughout the year. Luckily, the thyme from our garden was still good, so we didn’t have to buy the fresh thyme.
Recipe from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats.
1 pound macaroni with ridges, such as tubettini or mini penne rigate (we used regular penne rigate)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 (10-ounce) box frozen cooked butternut squash, defrosted
1 cup cream or half-and-half (we use cream)
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (eyeball it—we use freshly ground)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water, then add the pasta and cool al dente, or with a bite to it.
While the pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and onion. Cook the onions for a minute or two, then add the flour and cook together for a minute or two more. Whisk in the stock, then add the butternut squash and cook until warmed through and smooth. Stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the cheeses in a figure-eight motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Drain the cooked pasta well and combine with the sauce. Serve with a green salad. Garnish with thyme leaves.