You know, before we get into full-on Christmas madness, let's take a break. Let's pause to enjoy a nice light bowl of–oh wait, I'm talking about mac and cheese today.
To be fair, there's an entire butternut squash in here, cleverly blended into the sauce to make it creamy without a ton of butter and heavy cream, which I guess technically makes this mac "lighter." Not that I care, honestly. I wanted mac and cheese and I happened to have several butternut squash for my CSA that needed to be used much sooner than later.
When I was settling down to whip up this delicious mess of squash and cheese, I was texting with my friend. When I told her I was making butternut squash mac and cheese, she replied that she too had purchased the ingredients to make butternut squash mac and cheese this weekend. We're clearly on the same page. The same awesome page, because butternut squash in mac and cheese is damn good.
Not that you'd be able to chalk it up to squash; I served this to my family and they were all surprised to hear about the squash. When you know, it's obvious: the squash adds sweetness and a rich flavor to the fat on fat on pasta. Because of the sweetness, squash needs sharp, bold cheeses to stand up to it: I use a gruyere-cheddar blend, asiago, and Parmesan, but similar cheeses will work as well.
The other nice thing about the squash-based sauce? It reheats better than a roux and milk sauce, which is super convenient when you want to eat mac and cheese for breakfast. Like I may have yesterday morning.
butternut squash mac and cheese
Adapted from The New Way to Cook Light
So, this is another recipe which makes me thankful for my immersion blender. A regular blender is fine, but will be a bit more a hassle.
1 small butternut squash, about 1 lb, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic gloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 ounces shredded Gruyere or Gruyere-cheddar blend (about 1 1/4 cups)
4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese (about 1 cup)
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup), divided
1 lb uncooked pasta, like elbows or cavatappi
Butter or cooking spray, for pan
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13 casserole dish by buttering or spraying with cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine the chopped squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 10-20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper to the squash. If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the squash mixture until smooth in the saucepan. Otherwise, transfer the squash mixture to a blender. Remove the center piece from the blender lid and cover with a towel. Blend the mixture until smooth, then return to pan. Whisk in the Gruyere, Asiago, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan until melted and smooth.
Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions. To keep pasta from getting too mushy, cut one or two minutes off the box cooking time. Drain pasta, and add to cheese and squash mixture. Toss to coat. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan.
Combine the panko breadcrumbs and olive oil in a small skillet and heat over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from heat and combine with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the panko-cheese mixture over the pasta.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven, and serve immediately.