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Monday, October 7, 2013

Comfort Food Monday: Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Oh, macaroni and're something special. Warm, gooey, tangy, filling and of course, cheesy. It's the perfect comfort food if you ask me. Mac and cheese provides the perfect carb-coma in which to snuggle up in a blanket and watch a good movie. Take no shame in a good carb-coma. Every now and then, it's necessary. 

But let's talk about this mac and cheese specifically. While it still delivers all the things we love about traditional macaroni and cheese, it's slightly different. This variation is due to the butternut squash, which adds a bit more sweetness and heartiness. It's a great way to sneak in a veggie, but let's not pretend this is healthy. Or maybe we should. That will justify the second helping! 

While photographing this dish, my neighbor let his dogs out and saw me taking pictures of noodles on my back porch. "Taking pictures of some food...?" Hah. It can be really awkward when you get "caught blogging." Of course I am standing on my tip-toes taking pictures of a cast iron skillet and bowl of mac and cheese on a side table on my back porch. People do this all the time! In a few months, he will think nothing of it. 

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (recipe adapted from Food Network)
1 pound rigatoni
1 butternut squash
5-6 pieces of bacon
2 tbs. butter
1/2 onion
2 cups milk
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesan (plus a little extra for the topping)
bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and place on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until very soft when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Add bacon to oven and cook until crispy. Remove, let cool and cut into pieces.
3. While squash is cooling, cook rigatoni until al dente. Set aside.
4. Using a spoon, scoop out squash from its skin. Once all squash has been removed, use a fork to mash until smooth.
5. In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Grate onion and cook onion in butter for about 3 minutes. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add squash, milk and dry mustard. Bring to a low boil and let cook for about 5 minutes.
6. Add cheddar and parmesan cheese to squash and milk mixture. Using a whisk, stir until cheese has melted into mixture. Add rigatoni and bacon and stir until rigatoni is fully covered in cheese. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
7. Transfer noodles into a cast iron pan or other oven friendly pan. Top with a bit of breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden and cheese sauce is slightly bubbling. Remove, let cool and enjoy.

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