One of my favorite comfort foods has always been mac and cheese. My all time favorite was my grandma’s, but nobody makes it like she used to. I don’t even mind a box of the blues. It astounds me to no end that my one year old HATES mac and cheese. What kid hates that?? Crazy! When she was just starting solids, she really liked squash. So when I heard about the mac and cheese with squash in it on Branny Boils Over, I figured I’d give it a try to see if she’d eat it.
Well she didn’t. But her daddy and I sure did! If you have a normal kid who LIKES mac and cheese, this would be a great dish to fix to trick them into eating some veggies. Using the squash purée cuts down on how much cheese goes into it and it SEEMS really cheesy. You don’t even taste the squash. We also added the peas, like Branny suggests. My husband wasn’t crazy about the peas in it, but I really liked them. I think he’s outvoted, the peas stay! This was an awesome twist on mac and cheese, I’ll definitely be making it as a side dish more often – without the guilt!
Mac and Cheese
adapted from Branny Boils Over
1.5 cups Smart Taste by Ronzoni penne pasta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese (the tiny block)
1 cup squash puree’
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
salt, pepper, garlic powder and Tony’s seasoning to taste
Preheat oven to 350.
To prepare the squash, wash well then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and the stringy part by the seeds and place skin side down on a baking pan. Brush with one tablespoon butter, then sprinkle salt over. Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until soft when poked with a fork. When done, scoop out the soft insides, leaving the skin. Place in a food processor (or use an immersion mixer) and blend until smooth. Any extra beyond the one cup needed can be frozen in a ziploc bag for later use.
Now for the rest of the recipe. Cook pasta until soft (most people call for it al dente, I don’t like it like that though, I like it soft!), drain then set aside in the pot. In a saucepan, cook onion with a tad of olive oil until soft, then set aside. In the same saucepan, melt butter. Add the flour and blend, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add the milk and stir until well mixed and thickened. Add the puree and the onions, mix well. Fold in the cheeses and stir until heated through and well mixed. Season to taste. Pour on top of the pasta and add the frozen peas, fold until well mixed. Pour into a greased 9×9 casserole and bake for 25 minutes.
Notes: in her recipe, Branny uses 1 cup of mozzarella and 2 tbsp of cream cheese. I made my cheese substitutions because of what I had on hand. She also called for one whole onion, but I was scared it would be too overpowering.