Winter Squash Macaroni & Cheese

Fall has finally arrived! The leaves are starting to turn, hockey is finally back on TV, and farmer’s markets are packed with brightly colored pumpkins and squash. As the weather cools down, our appetite for comfort food heats up. There’s nothing like coming in from the cold to a warm, tasty meal. Baked macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods and I have been eager to try Ellie Kriger’s Macaroni and 4 Cheeses recipe from her book The Food You Crave. Her recipe calls for winter squash which serves as a base for the cheese sauce and ups the nutritional value of this dish. Winter squash is a great source of Vitamin A, which plays a key role in bone growth, healthy vision, and immune system health!

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Macaroni and 4 Cheeses

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat pasta)
  • 2 (10-oz) packages of frozen pureed winter squash
  • 2 cups 1% low fat milk (I used skim)
  • 4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 oz Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp powdered mustard
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the elbow macaroni. Cook for about 5-8 minutes and drain. While the pasta is cooking, add the frozen winter squash and milk to a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the squash is defrosted. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the Cheddar, Monterrey, and ricotta cheese, salt, powdered mustard, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. To limit the amount of dishes I needed to clean, I took the macaroni right from the strainer and added it to the cheese mixture in small batches before transferring it to the baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Mix together and sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the topping is brown and crispy.

mac2Winter Squash Macaroni and Cheese: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This dish is like a hug from Mom, it makes everything better. Paired with a glass of wine and NHL action on TV, it’s almost like I’m back home on my living room couch (except instead of the Devils, I’m watching the Blues!). The squash has a subtle flavor and it’s hard to tell that the majority of the sauce is actually vegetable- don’t tell anyone and see if they notice. I definitely want to make this dish again and experiment with adding some broccoli to the mix before throwing it in the oven. Enjoy!

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