Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

The weather is cooler now and I love comfort food, or pasta! Although I don't like the cold weather or being cold, I'm glad I am able to enjoy some great produce that is in season. One of them being is gourds aka squash! In my pantry I have several cans of pureed squashes except for the sweet potato pureed. Other then that it either pumpkin or butternut squash. It definitely very convenient to carry these in your pantry when you need to make something in a pinch. I like to use up all the food I have and then I'm able to restock with fresh items. Brings me to the canned purees. I wanted to use them up and I wanted comfort food. I remember a few years ago I made a macaroni and cheese that contains pureed butternut squash. I remember it being very good and it was calling my name for comfort! The recipe is from Ellie Krieger on Food Network. I did some minor changes and shortcuts to get the process rolling quicker! I really think this is something you will enjoy if you like cheese and you like squash. Perfect comfort meal!

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses (Adapted from Ellie Krieger)  
Cooking Spray
1 pound bow-tie pasta
20 oz of canned butternut squash (My can was only 15 oz, the other 5 oz came from a can of pureed sweet potatoes)
2 cups of 2% reduced fat milk (This is what I had on hand, use what you keep in the house)
6 oz of shredded extra-sharp Cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese (I bought as a medley already shredded, little short-cut)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons plain panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13- inch baking pan with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. The pasta will cook more in the oven when it mixed with the sauce. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, place the pureed squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until its defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixed with the cheese to the baking dish. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Bake for 20 minutes then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.
*FYI, photos are grainy because they were taken in the evening*
Definitely needed more extra-sharp Cheddar but it sure
made the process go by quicker.
I love this pasta! It has a good whole grain taste and extra filling. 
Goes well with fall dishes and anything with SQUASH!
  The sauce thicken up nicely and was a bit cheesy.  
  My favorite part of the dish, are the corners, burnt crunchy topping!
My Thoughts:
  • The original recipe calls for frozen squash, which you can use but I remember it taking FOREVER to thaw out. They tell you to use it frozen and combine in milk. I don't recommend it because it a mess, milk is everywhere and it takes longer. The canned purees took a few minutes to combine and made the dish come together quicker.
  • I used the shredded medley cheese for a short-cut. There was more white cheese in the bag then extra sharp- Cheddar. Which I was concerned about but at the end of the day, I don't need all this extra cheese in my fridge. It would definitely give the dish a sharper taste and would contrast nicely with the squash. That is up to the cook ;)
  • I told my dad I was making MACARONI AND CHEESE! He thought it was the real deal, until he tried it. Yes it has a squash taste and it very gourd like. He didn't enjoy it. I don't recommend this dish for someone who isn't a fan of squash, they may be disappointed because they expected real MACARONI AND CHEESE! ;)
  • I was debating to add broccoli but didn't. I just steamed and added to the side instead. Next time adding some spinach or broccoli would not be a bad idea.
This meal lasted a few days between my mom and I. We loved it. Went well with steam broccoli or a side salad or both! Definitely cured my comfort food for pasta and kept me warm and full! The original recipe at this link. I rushed to get this out this morning. Now it is time for me to go run some stairs!! Been over a month since I did this one. Looking forward to it.



Barbara said...

Mac and cheese is the best comfort food there is! I use what I have to put it together too. Sometimes there are some delicious results!

Unknown said...

GASP! I LOVE the idea of adding squash to mac and cheese! My kids are and Mac and Cheese addicts, I wonder if I could get them to eat this?? Thanks for the idea!