Does mac-and-cheese need butternut squash? Perhaps not. But it sure is good with it in there. Roasting the squash keeps it from adding too much extra liquid to the mix and deepens the sweetness it brings to the party. It's perfect for people who love butternut squash, but would like to try it in in something other than soup!
This hearty recipe works as a main dish with a salad or as a side to a more elaborate holiday meal. You can make this ahead of time all the way through step six. Keep the dish covered and chilled up to overnight before baking.
- 1 small butternut squash
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water and to taste
- 8 ounces macaroni (or similar pasta)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- Spray oil or butter for pan
Gather the ingredients.
Preheat an oven to 375 F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Trim off and discard the ends of the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy bits from the middle. Cut off and discard the peel. Chop the trimmed and peeled squash into bite-sized pieces. Spread the pieces on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, and toss to coat the squash pieces. Sprinkle with the salt and roast until tender and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. Set aside, but leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil, add enough salt to give the water flavor. Boil the pasta until it is still a tad underdone in the center, drain, and set aside.
In a pot big enough to fit all of the pasta, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook—continuing to whisk—until the mixture smells like a pie crust (that smell means the flour is cooked), about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth and thickened like a mac and cheese sauce. The sauce should coat the back of the spoon and, when you drag your finger through that coating, it should leave a distinct path. That texture means the sauce is properly thickened.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in 3/4 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the Parmesan, as well as the nutmeg and cayenne, if using. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. Once the cheese is melted, add the pasta and roasted squash until everything is coated and combined. Taste and add salt or more spice, if needed.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Thoroughly butter, grease, or oil spray a 2-quart baking dish. Add the pasta-squash mixture. Sprinkle the cheese-breadcrumb mixture on top.
Bake the dish until hot, bubbling into the center of the dish (not just along the edges), and well-browned on top, about 40 minutes.
Serve hot and enjoy!