Thinking of everyone in Paris and in Beirut, and every other place where people are suffering the effects of terrorism.
It feels a bit strange to go on as if nothing has happened, to tell you about this mac and cheese recipe that I made.
But, I suppose all that we can do is to pray for our broken world, and to continue to love the people in our lives and to be thankful for them. My favorite way to do that is though food.
Butternut squash was not a vegetable that I ate as a kid, but I have become increasingly enamored of it in adulthood. I love its sweetness and satisfying starch-like texture.
In mac and cheese, I love that butternut squash adds both a depth of flavor and that bright orange hue reminiscent of American and Velveta cheeses. We get to embrace our nostalgic childhood mac and cheese while eating a better tasting mac and cheese made with vegetables (and smoked gouda and white cheddar).
To make this mac and cheese stuffed butternut squash, we'll start by cutting a butternut squash in half and roasting it.
While the squash is roasting, we'll boil the water for the pasta and start making the béchamel sauce.[butter, flour, milk, cheese]
When the squash is done, we'll scoop out the inside, (reserving half for another recipe) mash it with a fork, and add it to that lovely cheese sauce.
Then, we'll add the macaroni noodles and scoop the mac and cheese into the hollowed-out butternut squash. After that, we'll sprinkle the top with buttered breadcrumbs, and bake for another 15 minutes.
Then, we might just start eating the mac and cheese straight from the pan, because it is that good.
Of course, you don't have to take the extra step of stuffing the butternut squash with mac and cheese--you could use a regular casserole dish. But, there's something fun and festive about presenting this mac and cheese in a hollowed out butternut squash, and I think this would be a major pleaser on Thanksgiving tables. This recipe could easily be prepared ahead of time and then just popped into the oven 15 minutes before you're ready to eat.
Mac and Cheese Stuffed Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
8 ounces macaroni noodles
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1 cup smoked gouda cheese
3/4 cup white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (combined with 1/2 tablespoon melted butter--optional)
Preheat oven to 400. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash in half. Use a spoon to remove the seeds. Place on a cookie sheet. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil over the surface of both halves of butternut squash. Use a culinary brush or a spoon to evenly spread the olive oil over the squash surface. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 for 45-55 minutes or until squash is tender. Set aside to cool.
While the squash cooks, boil the water for pasta and cook according to package directions. (I used gluten-free quinoa pasta for this and it turned out well.) Be sure to cook the pasta only until al-dente, as it will continue cooking when you bake it. Drain pasta and set aside.
Once the squash has cooled, use a spoon to scoop out most of the squash from its skin. (You'll want to leave a little inside for the skin to hold its shape) You will only used 1/2 of the squash for this recipe. Reserve the other half for another dish! I like to keep mine in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Use a fork to smash up any large pieces of squash until smooth.
Add 2 1/2 tablespoons butter to a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add 2 tablespoons flour. Stir for a minute or so until no lumps remain. Gradually add the milk a little at a time, stirring after each addition until the sauce thickens. Once all the milk is added and the sauce is creamy but not too thick, add the butternut squash and cheese. Stir until all the cheese is melted and then turn off the heat. Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary. Add the macaroni noodles to the sauce and stir to combine.
Scoop mac and cheese into the empty squash halves. Sprinkle the tops of each stuffed squash with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are slightly browned.