Friday, March 18, 2011

Winter Squash Macaroni & Cheese

Were you a little overzealous at the last farmers' market?  Did you stock up on one or two or five... extra squash?  Have they lingered in your kitchen all winter while you assured yourself you would get to them soon enough?

It's okay.  There is still time.

Spring may be just around the corner but there is opportunity yet to use the last of those winter squash.  And no, it's not a soup, (you're welcome!).  Incorporating squash into the sauce is a delicious way to sneak some extra nutrients into macaroni and cheese.  Not to mention it's just plain delicious.  Tragically, I failed to obtain photographic evidence but I assure you it's worth your while/

This recipe makes one large casserole, about 9 x 13".  You can easily adjust the measurements for any amount.

- 1 small winter squash, approximately one pound.  I used a petite Hubbard squash, but just about any variety would work well.
- 2 cups dried pasta, such as macaroni, rigatoni, or penne.  I recommend a whole wheat pasta for additional nutrition and winter heartiness.
- 2 strips bacon (optional)
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 cups cheese:  I used 1/2 c. white cheddar and 1 c. gruyere.  It's what I had and it was delicious, but feel free to experiment.  I think some crumbled goat cheese stirred in would be lovely.
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 2 cups milk (not skim)
- salt, pepper, paprika
- bread crumbs (optional)

  1. Bake the squash in the oven until completely tender.  Depending on the variety you use you can either just cut it in half or cut it into chunks.  Unless the skin is very thick and difficult to work with, I recommend peeling it and cutting it into chunks for faster cooking.
  2. Mash the squash.  Make sure there are no hard lumps.  Set aside.
  3. Cook your pasta until just al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta and set it aside in your casserole dish.
  5. Cook the bacon until crispy.
  6. Set the bacon aside to cool and pour out excess bacon fat from the pan.
  7. Dice the onion and saute it in the same pan until translucent and tender.
  8. While your onions cook, grate the cheese setting 1/4 aside.
  9. Add onions to pasta in casserole dish.
  10. In the same pan add 4 tbsp butter and let it melt as you scrape up any brown bits.
  11. Add the 4 tbsp flour and stir until blended.  The roux should be thick and paste-like.
  12. Once the roux is smooth but not browned, slowly add the milk and stir to blend.
  13. Add the cheese and the mashed squash.  Blend.
  14. Add salt, white pepper, and paprika to taste.
  15. Let the sauce simmer on low heat while you roughly chop the parsley and finely chop the bacon.
  16. Scatter the bacon and parsley over the pasta in the casserole dish.
  17. Pour the sauce over everything.
  18. Gently toss the mixture, making sure everything is evenly distributed.  Be sure to get all the way to the bottom of the pan.
  19. Sprinkle the top with 3/4 cup bread crumbs and 1/4 c. grated cheese.
  20. Bake in a 350 degree oven until it is hot through and the top is golden.

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