WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH! Vegetables! Oooey, gooey, healthy goodness!
First let me apologise for the fact that the pasta I used clearly isn’t macaroni pasta or the usual spiral stuff. THIS IS ALL I HAD OKAY?! *whispers* I’m sorry…
I took inspiration from http://www.pinchofyum.com and her version of this (I used caramelised onions), but winged most of it. It’s not that difficult to do as pretty much everything can be cooked at completely separate times, meaning timing everything is not essential. Which i’m always thankful for, cause I suck at timing things when cooking.
Half my dish is always cold when I come to plate it because I’m notoriously bad at it.
Let me tell you, mac an’ cheese has got to be one of my most favourite meals ever. Like EVER. When I was younger, my mum used to make it for me all the time. It was my reward meal whenever I did well in school, my birthday meal if I wasn’t eating out for my birthday, my cheer up meal if I was ill. Even now, whenever I go to visit my mum, mac an cheese is one of the top dinner meal contenders on her list.
When I started cooking for myself I tried to recreate this. We weren’t living together, we actually lived a fair distance from each other, so getting her to come round and teach me wasn’t an option.
My struggles began with the fact that I couldn’t make a cheese sauce from scratch. I had to buy the granulated ready made stuff – you know, like the way you make gravy? Then add cheese to it later. I mean, this worked. But it wasn’t the same. Then, I didn’t understand how ovens work with cheese. Like how after 20 minutes of cooking it would start to get crispy and AMAZZINNNG. No, I was impatient, and it would go in the oven for like… 5 minutes until the top layer of cheese was JUST melted. But it was cheese, so whatever, I ate it. And I liked it. Who doesn’t like cheese?!?! (sorry if you’re one of those people… or if you’re vegan – but hey! Vegan cheese right?)
Then finally, I didn’t understand how herbs and spices added a wholleeee other level to dishes.
After many years of make and remaking and eating and crying over failed mac an cheese dishes, I think I got it down. Awesome. I think I’ll do a four cheese mac an cheese recipe one time. But for tonight, I wanted to attempt making a cheese sauce out of mostly butternut squash, cause VEGGIES.
Well, I actually wanted pizza tonight. We’ve been drinking some beers watching the England vs Russia game, and I haven’t had pizza in ages. And beer and pizza… Mmm pizza.
Instead, I made healthy mac an cheese. It was the best I could do. I wanted to feel I was eating bad, but not be. It worked! Kind of, I could still tell I was eating butternut squash, but I kind of liked it. It was creamy, slightly sweet and felt indulgent.
It involved making a creamy butter nut squash sauce. So before you do anything, turn the oven on to 200°c or 180°c for fan ovens. Next fill two pans (one large, one medium/large, dpeending how much pasta you’re cooking) with water and turn the heat up medium to begin it’s boiling.
Now, you want to peel, de-seed and chop up into squares a butternut squash. The size of the squared aren’t too important, about the size shown below is ideal – just take care to maker them roughly the same size so they all cook evenly. Pop the chopped squash into the pan with the boiling water.
At the same time, pour your uncooked pasta into the other medium/large pan of boiling water. The pasta really doesn’t matter. In England, corkscrew pasta isn’t as easily accessible as it is in US, we have actual macaroni pasta – which is teeny tiny tube shaped pasta. BUT I DIDN’T HAVE EITHER DAMN PASTA IN MY CUPBOARD! I almost didn’t want to have mac and cheese for dinner after I discovered this. But I changed my mind – duh! Who can turn down the ooey gooey goodness of mac an cheese?! Well you might be able to, but I bloody can’t. I found some wholewheat shell pasta. (Or conchiglie if you wanna be really fancy and use it’s proper name). That’ll do.
Right, so whilst these are both cooking, slice up an onion and you want to lightly fry this to caramelise it. Do not, have the heat on high. Or even medium. This is a mistake I have made so many time. So so many. It was actually Lindsay at pinchofyum that pointed out to me that keeping it on low heat will stop it from burning. See this is the impatient side of me again. My impatience is the main reason I never used to be able to cook at all. And why Tom is a much better cook than me. So, I used coconut oil to fry the onion. On low heat. A tip I have found works if you find that the onion seems to be caramelising very slowly but turning up the heat even a tiny bit will cause it to burn, is add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan. This just allows me to turn the heat up a little bit to cook them faster without burning. Meanwhile, mix half a cup of boiling water with a table spoon of chicken/vegetable stock and save for in a few minutes.
So, after cooking the onion for about 5 minutes, the squash should be done. Drain this.
Add the squash and onion to a blender. Add about a quarter cup of milk of your choice to the blender. Add the stock you made earlier. And herbs and spices of your choice. I added salt, pepper, chilli flakes and one raw garlic bulb. Whizz it all up, shouldn’t take long.
Turn your pasta pan off and drain. Grate some cheese. Pour the squash mix into a measuring jug. Well pour it into whatever you want, but I think the measuring jug is the most practical as when it comes to pouring it out later, the point will make it a lot easier.
I had about half left over because I’m only making enough for two. Just pop any left overs left at the end in a jar in the fridge. So, everything is done now right?
So, grab yo’self a casserole dish and start layering that mother up! I went with layer of pasta, layer of squash, layer of cheese, layer of pasta, layer of squash, layer of cheese. Then finally, I added breadcrumbs for some crunch! Especially as we now don’t have a cheese sauce, just a thin layer of cheese, that crisby-ness I was talking about earlier isn’t going to happen. Hence, breadcrumbs. But mac an cheese is always better with breadcrumbs anyway IMO. Aaannnnddd into the oven we go!
Cook for 25 minutes and voila! Healthy mac ‘n’ cheese! No butter, no flour and a quarter of the cheese use. AND VEGETABLES!!!! Enjoy!
- Pasta of choice (best with macaroni pasta/eblow pasta/corkscrew pasta)
- Butternut Squash
- Quarter cup of milk of choice
- Tablespoon of chicken/vegetable stock
- One white onion
- Some mature/extra mature cheddar cheese (sorry I didn’t measure, but you can see its not a huge amount from the pictures above)
- Chili Flakes
- One Garlic clove
- Preheat your oven to 200°c (180°c if fan assisted)
- Fill two large pans with water and put on medium heat
- Peel, de-seed and chop the butternut squash into cubes
- Put all the squash and pasta (amount appropriate for servings) into the two pans to boil
- Slice a white onion up and lightly fry (on low heat) in coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil (or rapeseed oil as that’s also good for you) for five minutes
- Whilst frying the onion, boil the kettle and pour half a cup of boiling water into a jug with a tablespoon of stock in
- When the onion is caramelised (looks soft and slightly golden), the squash should also be done, drain the squash and add both ingredients to a blender
- Drain the pasta and set aside
- Add your spices of choice to the blender, the stock and quarter cup of milk of choice
- Whizz up until smooth, shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes
- Grate some cheese (not too much, this is meant to be healthy, but enough to add to cover two layers of your pasta dish.
- Layer up into a casserole dish. First with a layer of pasta, then squash, then cheese, pasta, squash, then cheese.
- Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Sprinkle some pepper on top and garnish (I forgot this stage – oops) serve and enjoy the healthy goodness!
I’m so happy I finally tried this. Butter squash eh. Never really been too bothered by them before, but now they bring me healthy mac an cheese…
Enjoy what life has to offer.