Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

I’ve only been cooking for a couple of years. I still consider myself a novice, but in the time I’ve spent in the kitchen I have developed a few recipes that friends of mine request over and over again. The most famous of these dishes is my recipe for butternut squash macaroni and cheese. It sounds healthy, right? It almost is. Yes, it’s healthier than most mac & cheeses out there but it’s not going to be on any ones diet plan.

This is one of those meals I don’t even need the recipe to make it anymore. It’s that easy. So when people ask me for the recipe I usually just verbally explain the steps to them. But when my fabulous vegetarian co-worker asked for the written version I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share it with all of you, too!

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When preparing this post I searched my entire camera roll history on my iphone confident that I would find a picture of one of the many versions of this mac I had made in the past.  But alas, this peeled and halved squash is as good as I could do.  I attribute the absence of a picture of the finished product to the fact that everyone is always on the edge of their seat when this dish is in the oven.  So when it comes out there is no time for pictures(alright, I’M on the floor outside of the oven staring through that little window).  That’s my story.  It definitely couldn’t be the fact that I’m a lazy photographer.  No, not at all.

I started making butternut squash mac and cheese a couple years ago when I came across this article when I used to stalk The Huffington Post.   That was my jump off point, but I have simplified this recipe to the bare minimum and it is still awesome.  You only need a few things, which I find most people usually have on hand: a cubed butternut squash, 2-3 cups of chicken (or vegetable to make the dish vegetarian) broth, 2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, yellow curry powder, salt, pepper, and 500g of your favorite pasta.  Easy peasy.

I usually have a butternut squash sitting on the counter waiting for the mac and cheese craving to hit, but if you’re in a rush and can think ahead the pre-cubed butternut squash at Trader Joe’s is legit.  (You’ll want two bags of it if you do go this route.)  Start by putting the squash in a large sauce pan and adding stock until the squash is almost covered.  Simmer until the squash is soft.  At this point you will be able to mash it up in the saucepan (very carefully!) with a masher preferably, or a fork if you must.  Once you have your mashed squash you can sprinkle in the shredded cheese and it just melts into a perfectly cheesy sauce for your mac.  Add 1 tsp curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. DO NOT SKIP THE CURRY POWDER.  It is the secret ingredient to this recipe.  Well not so secret to you and me, but it’s not something you can easily discern in the taste of the finished product but enhances the butternut squash flavor exponentially.  People are always asking what makes this dish so good, it is the curry powder.

While the squash is simmering add a package(500g) of noodles to the stove and boil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  I usually use farfalle noodles, though sometimes I use rotini or large macaroni.   Once the noodles are done (8-10 minutes) drain them and add them to a large baking dish.  I use a 11X13 pyrex.  Then pour the squash mixture over the noodles and gently fold the two together.  If there is any remaining cheese sprinkle that on top before sliding it in the over for about 15 minutes or the cheese begins to brown.  Sometimes I caramelize some onions to sprinkle on top when I’m feeling fancy.  It sweetens the dish but they aren’t necessary.

I promise to share a pic of the next batch I make, but I hope you can find some time to sneak some squash into your mac and cheese.  xoxo

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