Sunday, November 17, 2013

obligatory butternut squash recipe post (schmancy butternut squash mac n cheese)

I know, I know. 

Everyone and their mother is sharing recipes featuring butternut squash. After all, 'tis the season!

I'd sit this one out, except: a) I love butternut squash, and b) I love obnoxiously pushing food I love at people. Sorry I'm not sorry.

I had a reallyreallyreally hard time not eating this straight out of the pan before it was even finished, but had to keep reminding myself that eating 8 servings of pasta, cream, and cheese in one sitting would probably not be wise if I finished the dish, I wouldn't have a final photo of bubbly creamy cheesy goodness to share!

See those darker bits? Pure, caramely squash goodness. Because "caramely" is totally a word.

You'll notice (maybe) from the first photo that I used a package of pre-cut butternut squash. Generally I don't buy these packages, because I forget about them in the fridge until it's too late (and by "too late" I mean a week, which is totally ridiculous. Get your act together, squash!). Somehow I remembered about this package before it was too late, and celebrated joyously before getting down to it. If you're not afraid of a whole butternut squash, they keep for way (way way way) longer.

Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese (serves 6-8)

1 box elbow macaroni (8 servings)
1 package pre-cut butternut squash, or one squash peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk (the higher the fat content the easier it'll reduce - I used whole milk)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (don't buy pre-shredded if you can help it, it doesn't melt the same)
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry sage
1-2 pinches ground nutmeg (to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400*. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet (lining with foil will help with the clean-up but still maintain the caramely bits you'd get from direct contact with the pan). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is easily mashable. Mash roughly with a fork (or puree if you don't want any texture/chunks of squash in your mac) and set aside. Don't turn the oven off! You're not done with it yet.

While the squash is cooking (when it has about 20 minutes left), start water in a pot for the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. Melt butter in a medium shallow saucepan. Once melted, add flour and mix to form a roux. Stir almost constantly for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, until the mixture has darkened to a golden brown. Add cream and stir until the roux is fully incorporated. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let the mix cook for another 5-10 minutes until reduced to a slightly-thicker-than-heavy-cream consistency, stirring occasionally. Mix in cheese and mashed squash, and let the whole mix cook for another few minutes to make sure everything is melty goodness. Taste to see if you want/need any more seasoning.

Once the pasta is done, drain and transfer to a large oven-safe dish (I used a cast iron but I bet a casserole dish would work well too). Pour cheesy goodness over top, stir well, and toss in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the top is bubbly and golden. If you're feeling extra fancy, sprinkle some extra shredded parmesan over top for the last few minutes. Enjoy!