~more recently updated recipes~
ORIGINAL POST 2008 Today we kick off the 2008 collection of Thanksgiving vegetable recipes (update: please see the latest collection, Favorite Recipes for Thanksgiving's Favorite Vegetables) with a recipe for macaroni and cheese that'll have your family asking, "Who made the mac 'n' cheese?" Oh boy oh boy, this is a mac 'n' cheese that's completely familiar and yet also a surprise, thanks to the 'secret ingredient' of roasted butternut squash.
If you're like me, and then a dozen Slow Food St. Louis taste testers, and then my dad, you'll wonder, 'Why didn't we combine these before?' The combination is deeper, richer, earthier and yet still completely mac 'n' cheese -- it just works! Here's why, I think --
- The squash has the same beautiful color as the cheddar cheese - so the dish doesn't 'look' weird
- The roasted squash is sweet and soft, but still, adds just a bit of texture contrast to the macaroni
You can easily substitute your family's favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, just add roasted squash when you're assembling. Or use my recipe, below -- I do think the nutmeg and white pepper are perfect.
CONTROVERSY? ARE WE KIDDING?
Who knew butternut squash could be so controversial? I promise, this recipe was cooked, twice, long before butternut squash in macaroni and cheese became the subject of tabloids and talks-too-much-guy Jerry Seinfeld and and the talks-alot-too talk-gal Oprah. Jimminy.
2011 UPDATE Once again, this recipe surprised me at how good it is. We took it to a winter potluck, nary a noodle remained.
"Your butternut mac 'n' cheese was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The best thing ever--honest to goodness." ~ Daniel
"This is absolutely amazing. ... Will definitely be making again!" ~ Amy
"This is a hit every time I make it, and it is easily adapted to bake in a crockpot for potlucks." ~ Meredith
"So good!" ~ Aly
"BEST.DISH.EVER." ~ Sue
BUTTERNUT MAC 'N' CHEESE
Time to table: 2-1/2 hours
Makes about 4 cups, easy to double or triple
1 two-pound butternut squash
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut squash in half, lengthwise and rub cut side with olive oil. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast for 60 - 75 minutes or until completely cooked and soft. (Even easier? How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash, You Know, Whole.) Scoop out flesh while still warm and break apart with a spoon. Timing-wise, finish the squash roughly the same time the pasta and the sauce is cooked so that it's still warm. [Alternate method, how to roast a whole butternut squash: Place the whole squash, uncut, in the oven on a baking sheet. Roast for 90+ minutes until a knife inserted into the thickest part of the flesh (not where the seeds are) slips in/out easily. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds, they'll be harder to find so watch carefully.]
NOTE: For a 'less squashy' and more 'mac 'n' cheese' version, use half the roasted squash in this dish, reserving the other half for something else.
4 ounces (about 1 cup) elbow macaroni
Cook macaroni in salted water. Let drain well. Timing-wise, finish the pasta and the sauce about the same time.
NOTE: For a 'more mac 'n' cheese' version, use up to 16 ounces of macaroni.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped small
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
16 ounces cheddar cheese or any good melting cheese (if in a brick, sliced or cubed)
In a saucepan, melt the butter on MEDIUM heat til shimmery. Stir in the onion as it's prepped, then the nutmeg and white pepper, cook til onions soften. Stir in the flour and mix well. A tablespoon at a time, add the milk, incorporating each tablespoon well before adding another. (If you add it all at once, or without working in each time, there's risk of ending up with a lumpy sauce.) Stirring often, let the sauce come almost to the boiling point, it will thicken slightly. Add the cheese and let melt, adjusting temperature so that the sauce won't boil. (It's not a disaster if it does, since it's going into the casserole, but it'll look curdled.)
COMBINE In a large bowl, break the squash apart, mashing it really, with a wooden spoon. Stir in the hot, drained pasta and combine well, distributing the squash throughout. Stir in the sauce and combine well. Transfer to a greased baking dish. If you like, sprinkle the top with pimenton or paprika. If making ahead, let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
BAKE Return dish to room temperature. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes til hot and bubbly throughout. To add color to the top, place under the broiler for 2 - 3 minutes, watching carefully so not to burn. When covered with foil, holds its temperature for a good 30 minutes.
TO MAKE AHEAD
ONE or TWO DAYS BEFORE Roast the squash, then assemble the entire dish. Cover and refrigerate.
THANKSGIVING DAY Return the dish to room temperature -- allow at least a couple of hours. Bake at 350F for 30 - 45 minutes.
ALANNA'S TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
A two-pound butternut squash is 'small' by supermarket standards. If you get a large one, you might use only a quarter of the roasted flesh for this dish.
~ Winter Squash Polenta ~
the featured "squash" recipe in 2006
my own family's traditional favorite
~ Squash Puff ~
more good choices for Thanksgiving
~ Delicata Squash with Hot Pepper Glaze ~
~ Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Glaze ~