If you’ve read one of my Friday Favorites posts in the last couple of months, then you probably know that I am completely, head-over-heels-obsessed with macaroni and cheese recipes.
What can I say, the bond between woman, pasta, and cheese is strong.
This fall I’ve been especially infatuated with mac and cheese recipes incorporating sweet and velvety butternut squash, pinning at least a dozen different ones over the past couple of weeks, so I finally decided to whip one up for a post I recently wrote for Better Homes & Gardens’ new blog, Delish Dish!
The post was to highlight in-season eats, so I decided to feature squash. Exciting, right?! ;)
I honed in on butternut squash, my favorite of course, combining it with smoked cheddar cheese, salty bacon, and hearty rigatoni in one of the best macaroni and cheese recipes I’ve had. EVER.
Between the silky butternut squash that’s cooked until its fall-apart tender in milk, and freshly shredded smoked cheddar cheese that’s melted into the sauce, you will not believe how creamy this mac and cheese recipe is.
And so sweet, too! Not obnoxious, I’m eating dessert for dinner, sweet, but, like, vegetable-sweet. You know? Not to fear though, as the sweetness is balanced out by the bacon and smoked cheese. Such a treat!
Start by cooking 12oz rigatoni in salted, boiling water until it’s just under al dente, then drain and set aside. I liked using thick and hearty rigatoni in this recipe because the sauce and squash clung really well to its large surface area. Or…yeah.
Meanwhile, cook 1-1/2lbs cubed butternut squash in 2-1/2 cups milk over medium heat until its very, very tender, stirring every once and while.
Once the squash is tender, stream in a slurry of 1/4 cup each flour and milk, then cook for a few minutes to remove the floury taste. At this point the sauce will begin to get uber thick and luxurious!
Finally add 8oz shredded smoked cheddar cheese and stir it in off the heat until creamy. I seriously don’t know if I can ever go back to regular cheddar, you guys. Smoked cheese is where it’s AT! I had some sliced up with a sweet Honeycrisp today, and it was basically to-die.
FYI – the original recipe called for smoked gruyere cheese but my regular grocery store only had smoked cheddar. I can’t imagine gruyere would make that big of a difference though, because it was really that good!
Pour the cooked noodles, along with a couple slices of cooked bacon, and the butternut squash-smoked cheese sauce into a big bowl then stir it all up. The butternut squash will be so soft at this point, that it should just melt right into the mixture. Yum. :)
FYI – the recipe also calls for sauteed onions to be added at this point, but I left ‘em out ’cause I wanted Ben to be able to eat this.
Transfer the mixture into a non-stick sprayed baking dish, top with bread crumbs tossed with a little melted butter, and a little more smoked cheddar, then bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
The result is an absolutely irresistible, seasonal mac and cheese recipe that I know you’ll just love. I have seriously never had anything like it! Bonus points for re-heating well, too. Most mac and cheeses solidify into a brick if you put ‘em into the fridge, but the butternut squash in the sauce keeps it nice and creamy.