Mac & Cheese for Good Girls

During the almost 6 years I’ve lived in SF, I have stumbled across numerous foods that I now feel I really couldn’t live without.  Most centre around cheese… Grilled cheese sandwiches, goat cheese fondue, nachos, and of course mac & cheese.

If there is mac & cheese on a restaurant menu, I will order it.  And if I can’t choose between that and something else, then I’ll just order it in addition to whatever else I want to eat (I know, I know, eyes bigger than my belly and my wallet). My goal is to eat every mac & cheese dish that San Francisco has to offer!

I wasn’t brought up on the skinny blue Kraft boxes (thank you Mum!); but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been won over as an adult.  Although my mac & cheese palate reaches for standards a little higher than the yellow, runny Kraft stuff. There’s nothing better than a box of Annie’s shells and white cheddar at about 3am when you really shouldn’t be attempting to cook anything, let alone playing with fire.  It’s Neon’s signature dish!

But, for when I am feeling really naughty, I love a seriously gooey, crispy baked mac and cheese, rustled up from scratch.

Because its one of my favoruite indulgences, I’ve been thinking of ways to amp up its nutritional value.  Otherwise I may as well not bother eating it, but just rub it on my thighs instead.  Ah well, some foods are worth it.

My solution to upping the goodness level of this cheesy delicacy… Butternut squash.  It adds a nuttiness to the dish that really compliments cheeses like gruyere.  And it doesn’t really take away from everything I love about mac and cheese – its still unctuous, brimming with flavour and so comforting it makes you feel like your wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire.

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 box of macaroni / pasta of your choosing
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 box frozen butter nut squash, defrosted
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt & pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Cook pasta as per the instructions on the box.
  • While pasta cooks, heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the oil and butter.
  • When melted, add the sage and onion and cook for about 4 minutes until soft.
  • Stir in flour and cook together for 1 to 2 more minutes.
  • Whisk in stock, then stir in butternut squash until warmed through and smooth.
  • Pour in cream and bring sauce to a bubble.
  • Stir in cheeses until melted and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce.
  • Put in an oven-proof dish, top with breadcrumbs and throw in the oven to bake until the top is as crispy as you want it!
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