I love sneaky dishes like this. I mean, you can’t even tell there is 10 ounces of puréed vegetable in this!! Granted it doesn’t taste like the traditional creamy, gooey macaroni and cheese goodness… but it doesn’t taste bland and diet-like. It’s a very awesome dish. One of my Fall favorites actually. I’ve made this a number of times, even with canned pumpkin as a substitute for the squash. And it always comes out fantastic. I made this shortly after throwing together a Butternut Squash Lasagna. I had a ton of roasted squash purée leftover and instantly knew what I would be doing with it- mac ‘n cheese. Love it, love it, love it!
I did a few things different for this butternut squash macaroni and cheese than the recipe asks for. Firstly, I used my own butternut squash purée. I always do this. I find that you get much more flavor from a fresh veggie purée rather than with frozen. But hey, if I was pressed on time I wouldn’t mind going the frozen route. Or as I mentioned before- you could use pumpkin! Equal amounts though, so not quite a full 15 ounce can of pumpkin. And most importantly I don’t feel like this dish is cheesy enough as written. In the recipe Rachel Ray doesn’t use any cheese in the sauce. She makes a cream sauce and stirs in the purée, then she mixes in the macaroni, pours it into the baking dish and tops it with 1 cup parmesan and 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese. I’m sorry, but no cheese in the sauce? Really Rachel?? No, I’m sorry but that just doesn’t fly with me. I added an extra cup of cheddar to the sauce. PERFECT! Now, if you are trying to keep this dish on the healthy side then you might want to stick with the original. But me? Not so much. I would rather eat less with full flavor than sacrifice calories for taste.
Now I beg you to use extra sharp cheddar for this. It really helps tone down the squash flavor. They end up balancing each other out perfectly. The paprika and parsley are just garnishes ultimately, so those are optional in the end. As you can see from my photos, I opted out. I usually do with garnishes. I feel like the expense of fresh herbs is not justifiable for garnishing…
- 1 pound macaroni such as cassarecci, strozzopretti or ziti with lines
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose four
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1½ cups whole milk
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Nutmeg, grated to taste
- 1 (10-ounce) box frozen butternut squash, defrosted
- A few dashes hot sauce
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 cups (8 ounces) extra-sharp yellow Cheddar
- A handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook macaroni to al dente.
- Preheat broiler and place rack in middle of the oven.
- Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic until soft, 6 to 7 minutes and stir in the thyme.
- Scoot onions off to side of pan and melt butter, whisk flour into butter and combine whisk 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in butternut squash and a few dashes hot sauce. Reduce heat. When sauce comes to a bubble, stir in Parmigiano and 1 cup cheddar. Combine the sauce and macaroni, transfer to a casserole dish and top with remaining cheddar, chopped parsley and paprika. Brown the macaroni under broiler, 4 to 5 minutes until brown and bubbly.
adapted from Rachel Ray