Of all the winter squashes, the butternut squash is my favorite. It's delicious, sweet, creamy, and rich. There are so many things you can do with it! Similar to what I wrote on a recent recipe post featuring the delicata squash, it tastes best in early fall after its harvest. This is true for all winter squash varieties, which is called so because after the harvest, they can last through the winter, thus losing some flavor elements. In particular for the butternut squash, the skin hardens to hold up and store itself to last over the cold season.
I love mac and cheese so much now but I didn't use to. Unlike a lot of American households, I grew up in a Vietnamese household with no concept of real mac and cheese. I remember the Kraft Mac and Cheese commercials that always played on television, which always grossed me out because it looked so disgusting. I was so disturbed that I never ate mac and cheese ever in my life until I was 22 years old. Since 22, I've been hooked. It's one of the most comforting foods for the soul.
Because it's not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, I wanted to make a less heavy variation using butternut squash. I found a recipe online, made some modifications, and it turned out to be amazing. It's rich, creamy, decadent - everything you could dream a butternut squash mac and cheese would be like. We'll be making this again - and next time, I'm going to add in bacon for a nice smoky-salty kick.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Recipe
Recipe adapted from Foodess
- 2 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) shredded monterey jack
- 2 cup butternut squash puree
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
*To make butternut squash puree: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (cut side down), and roast for one hour. Cool squash, scoop out squash meat and run it through a blender until smooth. I usually do this the night before.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as instructed on package. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes until onions are soft. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, a bit at a time.
- Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and cook until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Add shredded cheese, whisking until smooth. Whisk in butternut squash puree, nutmeg, pepper, and salt to taste. Add pasta to the sauce and stir to evenly coat. Transfer pasta to a buttered 2 quart baking dish. Top the pasta with panko breadcrumbs evenly. Bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 20 minutes. If you want more toast on your crumbs, place on broil for 2-3 minutes and monitor closely.