Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Butternut Squash + Macaroni + Cheese  = A match made in foodie heaven.

I've been seeing recipes for Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese everywhere lately, and lucky for me, a couple of the lovely, golden squash were included in my latest organic box.  By the way, did you know a squash is considered a fruit?

Anyway, I looked at a few recipes online and then did what I always do, which is come up with my own version.  

To start, I needed to roast the squash.  I cut the top and bottom ends off of both, then halved them lengthwise, removed the rind, and scooped out the pulp and seeds with my trusty grapefruit spoon (I saved the seeds to be used as a salad garnish, but more on that later). I cut the squash into 1-inch cubes then tossed them in a bit of olive oil and placed them in the oven to roast at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until tender.  

In the meantime,  I put water on to boil for my pasta.  (Note: I didn't salt the water this time, like I usually do, since the sauce was already well seasoned.)  Then, I put 2 cups of chicken stock, 3 TBS of heavy cream and 1/2 TBS each of nutmeg and garlic powder in the blender. When the squash was done and had cooled a bit, I put about 3 cups of it into the blender along with the other ingredients and ran it until I had a nice thick purée.  

I poured the sauce into a pot on the stove and set to medium-low heat.  I stirred in 2 cups of aged, maple-smoked cheddar cheese that I grated, along with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup of grated smoked Gouda, and 3 TBS of lovely, mild, hand-rolled goat cheese.  I stirred until the cheese started to melt, and then adjusted the seasonings, adding a bit of kosher salt, cracked pepper, and a bit more nutmeg/garlic powder as needed.  Note: I didn't want to hide the squash flavor completely, so I didn't use cheeses that were overly pungent/stinky.

When the pasta (I used Farfalle) was al dente, I drained it and then stirred it into the sauce. At this point, I stood in front of the stove and almost devoured 1/3 of the pot. So tasty!

But, I wasn't done yet.  I wanted a bit of crunch and color, so I topped it with breadcrumbs that I had mixed with a bit of walnut oil and nutmeg, then placed the pot in the oven at 400 degrees to bake for about 15 minutes, until the topping had browned and the cheese was bubbly (see first pic).

It turned out really well -- creamy and dreamy.  I served it with a simple salad of organic romaine lettuce,   seckle pears and the toasted squash seeds, which I had browned on the stove and mixed with a bit of smoked sea salt.  For the dressing, I took some dark raw honey and balsamic vinegar, and whisked with some walnut oil.  I also had some roasted Romanesco broccoli on the side, and we drank a lovely South African white wine. Chris seemed to really like this dish, and I have to say, I did too. Why make boring old mac 'n cheese, when you can make Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese?  Yum.

Happy Eating, Happy Fall!