Usually after lunch I start to toy over in my head what I want to cook that night for dinner. Sometimes my ideas are inspired by the weather, an ingredient or a craving, and sometimes they are completely random. Today was a little bit of each, as it turned rainy and chilly and as I watched it drizzle for a better part of the afternoon, I had my mind made up: Macaroni and Cheese.
What I really wanted was a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese, but considering I ate 3/4 of a coffee cake last night by myself, I figured I would have to make it a little healthier.
I have always read about using some sort of squash puree or pumpkin puree to simulate a creamy mac and cheese sauce and add extra nutrition to a dish, so when I realized I had a frozen package of acorn squash in my freezer I figured this was meant to be.
I made this recipe up as I went along and it came out WAAAAAY better than I expecting it to. Seriously at one point when I looked at the defrosted squash all slumped in a bowl I immediately craved junk food. But the sauce came together really nicely and it turned out to be very flavorful.
I started by cooking 3/4 lb of whole wheat penne for 10 min (al dente). With three minutes to go I threw into the pasta water a bowl full of broccoli florets and let the broccoli cook with the pasta. I drained that and ran a little cold water over the colander to stop the broccoli from getting soggy.
While the pasta and broccoli were hanging out in the colander I heated up a little olive oil in the same pot, then sautéed two cloves of garlic, half a small white onion and two chopped scallions. To that I added my defrosted squash (the package I had was 12 oz) and stirred in about 3/4 C of milk, a few squirts of chicken stock and 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream. I stirred that together for a few minutes until it began to resemble a thick cheese sauce and then I threw the pasta and the broccoli in and coated it.
This wasn’t entirely cheese-less mac and cheese (that would be horrible). I then grated in a small block of white cheddar cheese that was about the same size as the back of my hand (if that makes any sense). I also added about three heaping tablespoons of grated Pecorino and a little splash of olive oil at the end. I also added a lot of black pepper and some himalayan sea salt.
The finish product was creamy, light and totally resembled the real thing. It was a complete home run for a unexpectedly chilly and rainy night!