Was it something like this? Anything like this? Please tell me I’m not the only one who judges mac and cheese by how close the color of the cheese sauce resembles that of the quintessential blue box.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. And let me tell you something. You absolutely have GOT to take away any preconceived notions of *gasp* butternut squash being, like, a vegetable or something like that. Vegetables aren’t creamy or cheesy or anything like that, are they? And they don’t really belong in cheesy comfort food. So, you might be wondering if I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes here.
Well, I must confess that the humble butternut squash isn’t exactly cheese. There’s no denying that. But when roasted up in the oven, pureed, and then mixed into with some eggs, half and half, milk, cheese, and spices and poured atop some noodles, butternut squash does become quite thick, rich, and creamy. It also receives bonus points for achieving an almost artificial orange hue… albeit an all natural orange hue. Score! Makes this girl happy.
I was also happy because this slightly sweet yet wholeheartedly savory, rich mac and cheese took almost no time at all, with the exception of roasting the butternut squash [which could be done ahead of time]. That means that this delicious, hearty bite is much closer than you think! Enjoy!
- 1 large butternut squash
- olive oil
- 1 cup onion, minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- 13.25 ounces small pasta [I used whole wheat shells.]
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup fat free half and half
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1 rounded teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
- 8 ounces Marbled Cheddar cheese, shredded
- reserved pasta water
- Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split the butternut squash in half and place in a large baking dish. Brush with olive oil and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until soft enough to pierce easily with a fork.
Meanwhile, begin caramelizing the onion. Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in n a small skillet over low heat. Add onion and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and just a touch of cayenne pepper [or more depending on desired level of spiciness]. Stir to mix and allow to caramelize over the next 30 minutes at least for best flavor.
When the butternut squash is cooked, allow to cool briefly and then scoop out into a medium bowl and puree with an immersion blender. Alternatively, use a food processor or regular blender. Puree should yield about 3 cups.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, half and half, milk, mustard, and sage in a small bowl. When pasta is ready, drain and return to pan over low heat. Pour in egg mixture and stir together. Then, add butternut squash and stir again. Finally, fold in cheese and most of the onions, reserving a small amount for topping.
Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add extra pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce. I used about 2/3 cup. Serve immediately, topping with caramelized onions and Panko bread crumbs.
Time: 90 minutes [30 minutes active].
Yield: 6-8 servings.