“Mummy, can we have Macaroni and Cheese for dinner?”
You know I was being asked for the kind that comes in a box with powdered cheese.
My stomach sank. I just couldn’t bear the thought of indulging in this “treat”, so thought I’d better think up something and think it up quick….so I said, “Sure honey, we’ll have Mac and cheese.” Then I headed to the fridge.
I pulled out a butternut squash, an onion, (pre-minced) garlic in a jar, and all the little ends of cheese we had leftover that were too small for sandwiches. I have always loved squash. Growing up acorn squash was one of my favourite veggies but I really do adore butternut squash now because it is easy to work with and so darn versatile. When I serve it as a straight side dish, not everyone in my family loves it as much as I do. But, it’s always a hit when I add it into something else; soup, risotto and now Mac and Cheese!
Honestly, this was a winner! It came together in under 30 minutes from start to finish, it was creamy from the butternut squash and everyone ate it! Even the non-squash lovers, had seconds. Result!
The only thing that didn’t work for me was that I needed THREE pots. That doesn’t usually fit into my definition of “easy” because three pots feels like a lot of dishes for a weekday dinner. The recipe was tasty enough I would do it again but just make sure you soak or wash the cheese sauce pots quite promptly or they will be a hassle to clean!
Hurray! I have one more easy recipe that I can add to my repertoire. It’s a good choice for “Meatless Mondays” too.
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe made a lot! It fed my family of six, with leftovers. If you have a smaller family, make half. If you do reheat it, you may need to add some more milk (give it a stir) or it will likely feel dry once you pull it out of the oven.
1 butternut squash
½ bag of pasta noodles (elbows or mini bows, or little circles – your choice). Bag was 900g, so 450g used.
½ yellow onion
1 tsp minced garlic
3 cups milk (I used 1%)
¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter
About 1-1 ½ cups grated cheese, your choice. We used a mix of leftovers, cheddar, real Parmesan and a little mozzarella.
Get your water boiling. Use one pot large enough to boil the squash (the water should just cover the squash). The other pot needs to be large enough that you can mix everything up at the end, but you only need to boil enough water to cover the pasta you are cooking. Be sure to cover both pots with their lids so the water boils faster.
Prep your squash. Remove the outside skin with a sharp knife, remove the seeds and cut the usable parts into quite small pieces as they will cook faster. I cut mine into scant 1 inch chunks. Cut them all to a similar size so they cook evenly. Boil for around 15 minutes, but start checking after 10. Once soft, when pierced with a fork, remove from heat, strain and mash with a potato masher. Cover and set aside.
At the same time, cook your macaroni (or pasta of your choice). Boil until it’s to your desired softness. Can I tell you, I really don’t get the al dente thing! Sure with fresh pasta, but not the hard store bought kind! Maybe we are just not that sophisticated but we prefer our pasta quite soft. So, done in around 15 minutes and strain.
While the squash and pasta are cooking, finely chop your onion. Then in your third pan, saute it and the garlic in the butter (yes it will sort of be swimming). Cook over low-medium heat until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, stir to combine, then whisk in your milk. Cook over medium heat (not HOT) and whisk regularly until the sauce thickens. Keep stirring or it will stick to the bottom. Then add the cheese and stir until it melts. This is very quick! Mine was ready just in time to add to the recently drained pasta – so it must have been 15-20 minutes all in.
Add the mashed squash and the cheese sauce into the big (strained) pasta pot. Stir it all together and serve!
Serving idea: You could serve with a nice green salad or some steamed broccoli. Adding some “green” makes it feel like a decent family meal!