It’s been an odd Autumn so far. The stores are full of pumpkin-spice everything, the market stands clearly indicate that it’s the middle of October with the array of squash and other definitely-not-summer-anymore vegetables and fruits yet outside, yesterday it was 24˚C! I mean, the sky LOOKED threatening and October-ish and it rained a bit. But we watched that from inside the school where it was so humid we had the air conditioners running! So weird!
No matter what the temperature though, as soon as butternut squash hits the markets, I’m always so happy. It’s one of my favourite vegetables for roasting and making soups and I generally have one or two of these in the house at any given time during the fall. Last week when the weather WAS autumn-like, I had roasted up a bunch of vegetables for the week’s lunches, including one of these and as I was taking the tray of lovely caramelized cubes of squash out of the oven, I spied a dish I’m working on for my cookbook sitting cooling on the counter. It’s a gratin de pâtes au jambon (a cheesy pasta dish with ham, beloved by (French) kids) and all of a sudden I was wondering how some squash would work in that dish in place of the ham to make it vegetarian. I ended up changing the recipe a little, making a creamier version of the gratin for a very autumn-like comfort food dish that works very well with the addition of the squash.
Roasted butternut squash mac and cheese
Easy oven-roasted butternut squash mac and cheese
- 1 medium butternut squash (mine was approx 1kg before I peeled it)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 300g dried elbow macaroni
- 45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 750mls (3 cups) milk
- 200g cheddar (or a milder cheese such as Emmental) cheese, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut into 1 - 1.5cm cubes.
- Place the squash on the baking tray, drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Use your hands to make sure the squash is evenly coated.
- Roast for around 30 minutes - the squash should be cooked and starting to caramelize around the edges. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package.
- Drain, cover and set aside.
- Heat the milk in a microwave or small pot on the stove.
- In a large pot, melt the butter and add the flour.
- Cook over medium heat
- until the flour is starting to turn golden (the mix will be quite dry).
- Add the warm milk a little at a time, whisking continually until you have added it all and it is stating to bubble.
- Continue to whisk the milk mixture over low-medium heat for around 3 minutes. It will be thickening at this point.
- Remove from the heat, add the macaroni and stir to make sure the pasta is coated evenly.
- Add the cheese and the squash and mix until just combined.
- At this point, taste the mixture because the amount of salt you add will depend on the type of cheese you used. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide the mixture into small ramekins or one large baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the Panko breadcrumbs.
- Heat the broiler to medium-high.
- Place the baking dishes or ramekins underneath the broiler until the top is golden, the cheese is melted and bubbling, approximately 3-5 minutes
Best thing about this? Most of the work time is hands-off – the squash roasts away in the oven and once it’s done, the pasta portion comes together in a flash. I’ve added a little bit of spice to the roasting squash and you can absolutely add more if that’s what you like. Or, change the spices up completely! It’s a very flexible dish in that regard. You can make this in individual portions or as one large dish to serve family-style and it reheats pretty well the next day (even in the microwave, the top stays crispy!).
What about you – what are your favourite ingredients/dishes to welcome the autumn?