Thursday, January 28, 2010

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Ever since the Squash tasting party, I've eaten more than my fair share of Butternut Squash Polenta. Recently, I decided that I should find a new way to get this delicious and nutritious squash into my diet and what better place to start than Mac and Cheese? As good as Mac and Cheese is, super nutritious it is NOT - it's basically a yummy tasting filler-food. But Butternut Squash has many wonderful healthy qualities to contribute to the all-American favorite food and nobody - especially the children - will have any idea it's in there - unless you tell them, of course, and why would you do that?!

I don't necessarily make it my mission to hide healthy food in my dishes, but when it's as brilliant and delicious as this one is, I'm all about it!

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

One Pound Macaroni, such as Tubatini or Mini Penne Rigate
One Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
One Medium Onion, finely chopped
One Teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Chicken Stock
One Medium Butternut Squash, cooked
One (10 ounce) Box Frozen Cooked Butternut Squash, defrosted
One Cup Half-and-Half or Cream
2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Black Pepper

Cook pasta until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, heat a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and finely chopped onion. Cook the onion in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk in stock. Then combine with butternut squash until warmed through and smooth. Stir in cream or half-and-half and bring sauce to a bubble. Stir in cheese in a figure eight motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper.

Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce.

Butternut Squash cooking note: You can buy the 10-ounce package of butternut squash in the frozen vegetable section of your grocery store, OR I like to place an actual medium sized squash in a crockpot with a cup of water and cook on high for three hours. The squash comes out perfectly perfect. Just cut in half, separating the top from the bottom, then peel the skin away with a knife and scoop out the inside seeds. Many times I cook the squash days ahead. Choose your own path.


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