Everyday I sift through various food blogs and websites looking for recipes that hook my attention. And time after time the recipes I’m most attracted to are grown-up versions of things I ate as a kid. One thing I loved as a kid, Mac and Cheese! I loved every type of it–I didn’t discriminate. Actually, Kraft macaroni and cheese was the first thing I learned how to cook and I cooked it regularly as an after school snack, and with pride I might add. I remember getting all fancy with it, playing with the consistency and adding pepper…and hot sauce. And when I went to college, I wasn’t too good for Easy Mac. I would cook it up in a microwave at midnight and not think a thing about it. Basically, my love affair with mac and cheese goes WAY back.
Sure, my tastes have become more sophisticated. I’ve been known to have some foie gras if the celebration is right, and I can get down with fancy salts on chocolate, or even good caviar on occasion, but the food I really love is the stuff that makes me feel at home. So when I came across this recipe, I was immeditately smitten. Butternut squash…Macaroni and Cheese? Together? Yes please! It feels like an after school snack for my adult self.
I tweaked the recipe a bit. Instead of peeling, seeding and cutting the butternut squash like the recipe instructed, I simply cut it in half and roasted it in the oven, face down for 30 minutes. I scooped the flesh out and put it in the saucepan with the chicken stock and milk. I also added more salt and cayenne than what the recipe called for.
Note: Whenever you’re cooking up a gratin or macaroni and cheese you want to try to use dry cheese, i.e., gruyere, parmesan. The more aged the cheese is, the less oil it will have. This is a good thing. The last thing you want is an oily mac n cheese or gratin.
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe by Martha Stewart
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) cut in half and roasted
1 cup homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (I used whole milk and it was great–whatever you have in your fridge)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 cup of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (4 oz.)
4 tablespoons gryuere or Parmesan cheese (I had gruyere in my fridge), finely grated (1 ounce)
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
Olive-oil cooking spray
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and put face down on a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, scoop out the seeds and discard. Then scoop out flesh and set aside. Combine squash, stock, and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons gruyere.
Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons gruyere or Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serve immediately.