Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

This entrée is excellent–so flavorful and rich tasting although it uses low-fat ingredients.  You will not notice the lack of fats here, although the final product will be slightly less creamy than traditional mac and cheese.

Instead of making a cheese sauce in the usual way, this recipe uses ricotta cheese and pureed squash to give this familiar dish is creaminess.  I also added a little low-fat sour cream to the squash-cheese mixture to further ensure its creaminess.  For the bread crumb topping, I used seasoned crumbs and coarsely grated Parmesan cheese.  A nice mixture that retained its crunch for a contrast to the macaroni.   The addition of nutmeg to the sauce is important as it brings out the sweetness of the squash, and enhances any cream sauce.

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Although this dish is a departure from the standard mac and cheese we enjoyed it.  I served it with ham and a salad for a complete meal.  Any leftovers warmed up nicely in the microwave, with just a drizzle of milk to bring back its creaminess.

MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Yield:  Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)IMG_5688
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  1/2 cups non-fat milk
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4  oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 4 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 Tbsp. fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Olive-oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Combine squash, chicken broth, and milk in a medium saucepan;  bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add macaroni; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 Tbsp. Parmesan.

Adding cheese to the squash and macaroni mixture.

Adding cheese to the squash and macaroni mixture.

3.  Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4-inches deep) with cooking spray.  Transfer macaroni mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 Tbsp. Parmesan, and oil;  sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.

Crumb topping ready to be sprinkled over the top.

Crumb topping ready to be sprinkled over the top.

4.  Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 – 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Browned and bubbly.  Ready for the table.

Browned and bubbly. Ready for the table.

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SOURCE:  Martha Stewart Living

Baked Macaroni Casserole with Three Cheeses

Ahhhh,  Baked macaroni and cheese!!!   One of the nice things about the return of cool weather is that we can indulge in some of our favorite casseroles.   The one casserole dish that stands out above all others at my house is Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  Mr. D.  goes nuts-o for it!

Baked cavatappi with three cheeses

Baked cavatappi with three cheeses

This is another of those dishes that everyone probably has a favorite recipe for, or they just make it without a recipe.  That’s usually what I do.  But back in 2006,  (Yup, way back then),  I came across this recipe that incorporates three different cheeses into the mix, and the resulting cheesiness is outstanding.  The other thing I like about it is using a different shape pasta.  Most everyone I know uses elbows, and there’s nothing wrong with elbows,  I love them, too.   But, ya know?  Sometimes I just need a change!

So cavatappi is what is called for in this recipe, or any other interesting pasta that excites you.  But be different,  don’t use elbows.  When choosing a pasta shape, think about what will hold all that cheese sauce best– something with curves or openings for the cheese to cling to.    Along with the mac and cheese,  I like to serve ham, and a green vegetable.  The evening I made this I had sautéd beet greens, but spinach or broccoli would also be good with it.   Omit the meat and serve with just a vegetable or a big salad and it becomes a great meatless meal.

Mr. D. said this meal was so special that it felt like a Birthday dinner.  I told him I was practicing for his birthday!  😀

This recipe is one I prepare when I want to splurge a little and serve something rich and decadent, because of the quantity and quality of cheese used.  You can certainly substitute different cheeses if you wish, but choose those that have good melting abilities.

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CAVATAPPI CASSEROLE WITH THREE CHEESES

Yield:   6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cavatappi or other short, spiral shaped pasta

    Squiggily pasta and  three cheeses become a super mac and cheese dinner.

    Squiggily pasta and three cheeses become a super mac and cheese dinner.

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
  • 8 ounces Gruyére cheese, grated ( 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded ( 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, ( 1/2 cup)

Directions:

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish, or similar size casserole, or 6 – 8 individual ramekins, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350*F.

2.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add flour, and cook whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in milk, and cook, whisking constantly. 5 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Whisk in salt, black pepper and if desired red pepper.  Remove from heat, and add 1 cup Gruyére, whisking until smooth.  Add Gouda and Parmesan, and whisk until smooth.

Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta.

Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta.

3.  Add sauce to pasta and stir to combine.   Transfer mixture to prepared dish or ramekins, top with remaining 1 cup Gruyére, and bake at 350*F for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Doesn't that look good?

Doesn’t that look good?

SOURCE:   Country Living

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Several weeks ago we had dinner out and one of the side dishes offered was Lobster Mac and Cheese.  My husband chose this option as part of his dinner and when it arrived it looked soooo good.  On tasting it he said it was the best he had ever had, so of course I had to try my hand at making it.  What could be so difficult about adding some lobster to basic mac and cheese?

Well, before I got around to trying it out a new issue of Food Network Magazine arrived, and in it was a recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese by Ina Garten from her newest cookbook Barefoot Contessa, Foolproof.  So there was no need for me to develop a recipe when I now had one from a well-known celebrity chef.

With some minor modifications, and making only half the recipe,  I made it last week and my husband said it was the best he has ever eaten.  ( He always knows just the right thing to say!)  Without his having said that, I would have said the same thing:  it is THE BEST I have ever made.  Not only does the addition of lobster elevate it above the ordinary, but the cheeses used made a velvety smooth sauce. I used Panko crumbs and butter for the topping instead of white bread crumbs, and they browned up nicely for a crunchy topping. Served with a hearty mixed greens and vegetables salad,  it was a most satisfying meal.

LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE

SERVES:   6 – 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese ( 12 ounces )  I used Gouda cheese.
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar ( 8 ounces )
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 pounds lobster meat, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs ( 5 slices, crusts removed)

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a large baking dish, or several individual gratin dishes.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package .  Drain well.

3.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t allow it to boil.  In a large saucepan, melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter and add the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the cheeses, 1 Tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese melts.

The rich cheesy sauce.

4.  Stir in the cooked pasta and fold in the lobster.

Fold in the lobster!

Pile the mixture into the prepared baking dish, or dishes.

5.  Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter;  combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

Now that’s Comfort Food!

SOURCE:  slightly adapted from  Ina Garten, via Food Network Magazine