I love Butternut Squash and combined with a cheese sauce it makes for a fabulous variation of the classic pasta dish, Mac and Cheese. It adds a lovely richness to the dish and a real sweetness which kids especially love. I am very fortunate that Ben is a great eater and thankfully loves vegetables but if you have a child (or other family member!) that isn't so keen on veg then this is a great way to sneak it in to their meals.
I wouldn't normally add cream cheese to my Macaroni & Cheese and to be honest the first time I tried it was purely because I had a lot of cream cheese needing used up so I thought why not? It turned out that the tang of the cream cheese balanced the sweetness of the squash so well that I kept it as part of the permanent recipe. If you would rather not use cream cheese however, then simply replace with 85g or 3oz of your favourite cheese such as mozzarella or gruyere.
500g/ ½ large butternut squash, peeled & seeds removed (weight after prepared)
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb/450g fusilli, macaroni or other smaller pasta shape of your choice
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
85g/ 3oz cream cheese* see note above
85g/ 3oz strong cheddar cheese, grated
30g/ 1 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Cut the squash into equal sized chunks then put onto a baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil then toss so that the squash is evenly coated in the oil. Roast for 25-30, minutes, turning half way through cooking, until soft and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly. Once cooled puree the squash in a blender or processor until silky smooth then set aside.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente. If you want to finish off the macaroni in the oven by baking it, cook it for roughly 2 minutes less than the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking make the cheese sauce. In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Cook over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, allowing the roux, (the butter and flour mix) to cook slightly to prevent a raw flour taste later on.
Gently start whisking the milk a little at a time into the roux, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps. Once all the milk has been added very gently bring it to a simmer, stirring constantly, then allow to simmer for a couple of minutes so that it thickens. (A milk sauce thickened with flour or cornflour will never thicken fully until it has reached a simmer.) Add the mustard, cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese, along with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste to check the seasoning and stir until all the cheeses are melted. Once completely melted add the pureed butternut squash to the pan and stir until well mixed. Once again check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Reserve some of the pasta water from the pan in a cup then drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add a good splash or two of the starchy cooking water until it is the right consistency and stir well before transferring to an oven-proof serving dish. Top with the parmesan cheese then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or put it under a hot grill for roughly 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
*Like it hot? The dish is delicious as it is but if you are a heat freak like me then try adding a generous squirt of Sriracha (or other chilli sauce that you love) to the sauce for a kicked up version.