As the fall weather continues to cool, we find ourselves craving more comfort foods even during our tailgating and game day weekends. While many football fans may not mind the cold, they still need to prepare themselves for even the most blistery days. Grilling burgers and hot dogs are great for the earlier parts of fall but as we go later into the season, cooking for the wintertime makes for a better experience while keeping you warm. Casseroles and baked dishes are not only hearty and comforting but also help feed a crowd of people. For this week’s recipe, mac and cheese gets a delicious and healthy makeover with one of fall and winter’s most exciting seasonal vegetables–butternut squash! While you may enjoy this dish on its own, adding butternut squash gives it extra richness and creaminess, something that’s always welcome in this party favorite. If you’re having this indoors, serving it fresh right out of the oven is the optimal way to go. However, if you plan to bring it to a tailgate, simply transfer it in an buffet food warmer to keep it hot.
There’s something magical about the rich, buttery taste of butternut squash that makes it a standout from other winter squashes. It has a distinct sweetness reminiscent of butterscotch with a dose of nuttiness, similar to the flavor of carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. In fact, combined with butter, fresh aromatic herbs or warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg helps bring out its warm autumnal flavors. This squash is not as stringy as certain squashes, making it a wonderful ingredient in soups, stews and purees. They can be used as a substitute for sweet potatoes in most recipes. Boiling them is a quick way to cook them but you can also steam them or roast them in the oven. A versatile ingredient enjoyed especially during the fall and winter season, butternut squash can be made into a Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, Dried Cranberry and Basmati Rice Stuffed Butternut Squash and Butternut Squash Risotto with Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops and much more.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Yields: 6 servings
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 4 to 5 cups)
- 1 lb of elbow macaroni
- 1 and 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
- 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking spray
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the butternut squash, milk and chicken stock. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for around 25 minutes until the squash is fork tender.
2. Remove the squash mixture from the heat. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and mash everything together, making sure everything is well combined.
3. While the butternut squash is cooking, make the macaroni. In a pot, bring some water to a boil. Add salt to the water and cook the macaroni for around 8 to 9 minutes or until al dente. Once cooked, drain and remove from the heat.
4. Combine the macaroni with the butternut squash mixture. Add all of the cheeses and stir together to combine.
5. Spray a 9 inch baking pan with cooking with cooking spray. Pour in the macaroni and top with paprika. Bake for around 40 to 45 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly. Once cooked, remove from the heat and serve immediately.