I’ve been in a bit of a food rut as of late. I find myself drawn to old favorites, to dishes that are tried and true. We’ve had record rainfall in Portland this past week and as a result, I find myself feeling particularly lazy in the kitchen. I don’t want to push the culinary envelope. I just want to make something that is simple, warm, and cozy.
This is one of those recipes. Macaroni and cheese is the epitome comfort food. I’ve been making variations on this mac and cheese for years, and it never ever disappoints. It’s rich and creamy, with just a hint of sweetness from the butternut squash. The squash also adds color and texture to the cheese sauce and causes everything to meld together perfectly. (If you’ve not tried butternut squash in macaroni and cheese before, I dare you to try it. It’s remarkably good.)
All that to say, this is my go-to rainy day recipe. If you find yourself looking for a rainy day recipe in the coming weeks (I’m lookin’ at you, Portland!), I highly recommend this one. It’s real good eats.
- 1 small butternut squash
- 3/4 lb macaroni noodles (or other pasta)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 small shallots, diced
- 2.5 cups whole milk
- 3 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella, and parmesan).
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Panko bread crumbs (for topping)
- First, make the butternut squash puree (can be done ahead of time). I find that the easiest way to do this is to slice the squash in half lengthwise. Leave the skin on and remove the seeds. Rub the squash flesh with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place the squash halves (skin facing up) on a lined baking sheet. Roast in a 400 degree oven until squash is cooked all the way through and fork tender (30+ minutes). When tender, remove the squash from the oven. Allow to cool and scoop out the roasted squash flesh and place in a food processor. Pureé until smooth. (Hint: adding a bit of water or olive oil to the squash results in a smoother pureé.) If not using immediately, store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week.
- To make the mac and cheese, first preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and shallots and whisk rapidly to combine. Continue to whisk and cook, until the flour and butter start to turn golden brown (2-3 minutes). Add in 1/2 up milk, whisking constantly. (Note: the roux will actually get thicker with the initial addition of milk. Just keep whisking and slowly adding milk and it’ll get smooth and creamy!). Pour the rest of the milk slowly, in half cup increments, whisking constantly. Once all the milk had been added, allow the sauce to simmer and thicken over low heat for 10 minutes. (Stir often and be careful not to burn it!) After 10 minutes, add the grated cheese into the sauce, stirring to combine. Stir in the squash puree, sage, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.
- Once the cheese is completely melted and incorporated into the sauce, toss the sauce with the cooked pasta and pour into a greased baking dish (9×13). Top with an extra handful of shredded cheese and Panko crumbs.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden brown.
Adapted from Foodess