I love the Pioneer Woman’s recipes. Two of my favorites (and worst for you, I’m sure) are her Fettucine Alfredo and Broccoli-Cheese Soup. I have this darn butternut squash that’s been sitting on my cupboard for way too long, and I decided I need to do SOMETHING with it. Prior to glancing at my butternut squash, I had been planning on a simple lunch of Kraft Mac and Cheese with tuna mixed in. I begrudgingly decided I would have to delay my guilty pleasure boxed mac and cheese for the time being in favor of using up my butternut squash. So I searched the internet for butternut squash mac and cheese recipes (having seen many a recipe on Pinterest in the past). The first recipe to come up during my google search was the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It was a no-brainer to try it; after previewing the recipe I didn’t bother to search for a different or better recipe. Because I was pretty sure one that fit that description didn’t even exist.
- 12 oz weight macaroni (I used a 13.75 oz. box of whole wheat shells but ended up dropping some cooked noodles in the sink accidentally)
- ½ whole butternut squash (approximately 4 c. pureeed)
- olive oil
- 2 whole yellow onions, sliced
- 8 T. butter
- 2 T. flour
- 2 c. whole milk
- salt and pepper
- 2 c. grated cheese (I used a mixture of Colby Jack and Parmesan) plus more for topping the dish
- ½ c. breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut a whole butternut squash in half lengthwise. Drizzle half the squash with olive oil and place it on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Roast it in the oven for 20 to 50 minutes (depending on the size) until fork tender, watching it to make sure the surface doesn’t get burned (it should have some brown areas.) Store the other half of the squash in the fridge for another use. When the squash is roasted and tender, scrape out the flesh and puree in a blender such as a Vitamix or in a food processor. You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to get the puree nice and smooth. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and set it aside.
- While you’re roasting the squash, add the onions and 2 tablespoons of the butter to a large, ovenproof skillet over low to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, cooking the onions until they’re deep golden brown. Remove to a plate and set them aside.
- To the same skillet you used to cook the onions, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle over the flour and whisk it to make a thin paste. Cook it for 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Cook it, whisking gently, for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Meanwhile cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
- Turn the heat to low and stir in the butternut squash puree. When it is warmed, stir in the cheese. If the sauce is overly thick when the cheese is melted, add a splash of milk. Keep stirring until the sauce is nice and hot, then stir in the macaroni. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Melt the remaining butter and combine it with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle onions, additional cheese, and the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and bake it (I do it straight in the skillet!) at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and the edges bubbly.
I was on this butternut squash kick a few months back because it was an acceptable vegetable on a detox I was doing before my friend’s intended wedding. I forgot what I learned back that then: I’m not overly fond of butternut squash. It’s just a bit too sweet for me. That being said, I remembered that when I was making this dish. To counteract the sweetness I ended up adding a A LOT of salt. Maybe too much. What I briefly thought about doing and now wish I would have done was add bacon to this dish. I have some nice thick stuff in my freezer. The bacon would very nicely complement the sweetness of the squash.
If you like butternut squash and you like mac ‘n cheese and you want to try them together, I would recommend the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. I love how bright orange the dish looks because of the addition of the squash. Even if you don’t use a cheddar cheese, as I didn’t, the noodles still turn out bright orange. I wasn’t overly fond of this dish when it was straight out of the oven. It tasted too butternut squash-y to me. But I’m not one to waste leftovers, so I took them in my lunch to work the following week and I noticed that the butternut squash flavor seemed to calm down or meld with the caramelized onions, maybe. In short, I thought the leftovers were great! Just heat up with a little bit extra cream and butter and stir and you will recreate the original creaminess of the recipe.