a home cook with notions & an appetite
On the one hand, this is going to be a post about a fantastic way to make a mac n’ cheese without a bechamel sauce that is actually creamy. On the other hand, this is a bittersweet post about the one and only butternut squash in the garden to survive the great mouse invasion. At the time of the making of this dish, we did not know that the great mouse invasion was about to take place.
This is yet another Cooking Light recipe. What can I say? I’m rarely steered wrong when it comes to my subscription and when they promised a creamy mac and cheese without a whole lot of cheats in the form of evaporated skim milks or skim milk puffed up with cornstarch, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’ve already mentioned the butternut squash, so let’s get to the ingredients:
I know this looks like a daunting list of ingredients, but I promise I did this on a weeknight and it was done in a little bit over an hour. First things first, I started boiling water for the pasta and I prepped my butternut squash. Prepping the squash meant peeling the squash, dicing it and mixing it with the milk, garlic and chicken broth in a pot and cooking it for about 25 minutes. Just enough to get the squash completely tender. Once I was sure that was done, it was a quick visit to the VitaMix (I love that thing!) where it met up with some salt, pepper and the Greek yogurt and was pulverized until it was a lovely cream. A quick transfer to my biggest glass bowl and once I mixed in the Gruyère, Romano and half the Parmesan, I had my bechamel substitute:
While this had been happening, I had plenty of time to boil and drain my pound of pasta. All while preheating the oven to 375 degrees. With my drained pasta, I mixed the pasta and my butternut-cheese mixture together:
After this, I put the sauced pasta in a 13×9-inch baking dish. Before baking the macaroni and cheese, there was one last bit of prep.
The making of the crumb topping. Who doesn’t love the crunchy bit on top of a baked pasta and cheese dish? I simply heated up my olive oil in a nonstick pan, browned the panko breadcrumbs (this was done over medium heat) and then stirred in the Parmesan cheese once I took the breadcrumbs off the heat. This is tasty stuff and was the perfect topper for my macaroni and cheese, which went into the oven for 25 minutes. Witness lovely before and after shot to see the extra yummy browning effect:
So let me tell you about the macaroni and cheese with the butternut squash-cheese sauce. It’s on the sweet side, and it’s very creamy. I absolutely enjoyed it, but one thing kept throwing me. It was the orange vs. the Gruyère. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Gruyère, but the orange screamed, “CHEDDAR!” to me the entire time. I think there’s no reason that one couldn’t switch up the cheeses at will in this – and enjoy nutritional benefit of the butternut squash. Not to mention, if you keep this to 8 servings, it’s only 390 calories a serving. Not to shabby for a light macaroni and cheese that’s made with full fat cheeses.
Oh, the great mouse invasion? Did you think I’d forgotten? See, we had six other butternut squashes waiting for us in our garden. They were out there, day in and day out, growing plump and jolly in the sun and rain. Until the mice came. These mice chewed their mouse holes in the sides of each of the remaining butternut squash and burrowed their way into the squash and ate the entire insides out of the squash. Mean mice.