Monday, September 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Please excuse the photo. It was another one of those days where I was trying to juggle too much and taking a photo of dinner became a nagging chore as opposed to an artistic form of expression.

I'm not a fan of macaroni and cheese. Never have been and I don't think I ever will. I think it's because I don't like Velveeta cheese. What is Velveeta cheese anyways? It is real cheese? I like to refer to it as imitation cheese. Then again, I'm not the biggest fan of cheese, so you smack some maybe cheese on pasta and it's like dumping ketchup all over a filet mignon. (Not that I would know.) My mother didn't make much mac and cheese growing up, probably because I didn't like it. She would occasionally make some spicy version of velveeta shells and cheese and I wouldn't touch it. What's worse than faux cheese? Spicy faux cheese!

I do make macaroni and cheese for Hubby and Bambino. (Of course, another dish we disagree upon.) I got the recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook and I do not use the pseudo cheese, but instead 2 % milk cheddar. (Some may say lean cheese is just as much a disgrace as Velveeta, I'm sure.) I also add vegetables and turkey sausage to make it a full meal. And of course, another meal that I don't touch.

So I was watching the Rachael Ray show one day (I know, gasp!), it was actually the first time I watched the show. I saw her make the only recipe of hers that I like, butternut bowties. Essentially, instead of using pure macaroni and cheese, she used pureed butternut squash, farfalle pasta and cheedar cheese to make the dish. I really liked that she healthied up the dish with a fresh vegetable. Since I was more than used to working with pureed butternut squash (from making homemade baby food) I was excited to try the dish.

And try the dish I did. It was a big hit! I added some peas to it as well. Hubby, Bambino and I all loved it! It's perfect for a side dish to protein because it has both a starch and vegetables. This one is in heavy rotation around here.

Click here for the original recipe.

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 box of bowtie pasta, 16 oz (Or whatever you choose. I used mini penne.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (Recipe calls for 2 tablespoons butter, but I prefer olive oil)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cinnamon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2% milk)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas

Note: When I made this recipe I divided all ingredients by 2, otherwise this makes  A LOT of pasta. Also, the recipe will say to bake the butternut squash in the oven. I broke down the butternut squash in small chunks and cooked it in the pressure cooker for about 20 minutes.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash halves on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each side and bake cut side down. Bake until cooked through, about an hour. Remove from oven and cool. Remove skin.

2. Place butternut squash in a food processor and puree. (I like my butternut squash silky smooth, so I add in a little water to make it look creamy.)

3. Cook box of pasta according to directions. Once cooked transfer to a greased baking dish.

4. While pasta is cooking, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add in the flour and mix for about one minute. Add in the milk and whisk until the milk begins to bubble and the sauce thickens. (This will take several minutes, just keep mixing.)

5. Once sauce has thickened, add in butternut squash, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Add in the cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese until melted into sauce.

6. Pour sauce into baking dish with pasta. Add frozen peas. Cook in oven (still at 400 degrees) for 10-15 minutes until hot and bubbly. Cool and serve.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 6
This one may look a little difficult, but it really is not too bad. If you don't want to deal with cutting apart the butternut squash (it takes some muscle) you can easily you frozen butternut squash. Since I half the recipe when I make it, I freeze the leftover pureed butternut squash to use the next time I make the dish.

Technically, this dish is more in rotation, not heavy rotation. No specific reason, I make it often, but not that often. Good stuff here.

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