Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

This is a seasonal favorite of mine, I was so excited to share this with my brand spankin’ new husband and grand father in law.  I’ve included the recipe for the very basic mac and cheese, at the end I have a few alterations to spice up left-over nights!

The goal with this recipe was to use one pot, my trusty giant blue Le Creuset, and to layer the flavors.  I wanted to build up on the pancetta flavor, once I removed it I added the onions to the drippings and cooked them down to a caramel color.  Finally I removed the onion and poured in a cup of stock, the pan was so hot it steamed quite a bit but this is good!  I used a wooden spoon to stir aggressively making sure to scape the sides and bottom well.  Two more cups of stock and this is what my squash cubes boiled in, thus layering and combining the flavor even more.  The only draw back is that this method takes a little longer, you can always use more pots to speed up the process.

*this recipe requires a blender or food processor

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 stick of butter (sounds so much better than 8 tablespoons hehe)

4 oz or less pancetta (you can also use bacon or leave out for a vegetarian option)

1 cup shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)

1 bay leaf

1 large onion

3 cups vegetable stock or broth

Pinch of salt

A few turns of pepper

Parsley

 

Method

  1. Cube squash, chop onion and pancetta, set each aside separately.
  2. Cook a full box of pasta according to package instructions, I prefer al dente. Drain and set aside
  3. Melt two tablespoons of butter on medium heat in a large soup pot.
  4. Add pancetta and cook until brown bits begin to form, stirring frequently (5 to 7 minutes) remove and set aside.
  5. Add onion and bay leaf to the pan drippings also a pinch of salt, a few turns of pepper and a good coating of dried parsley.  Keeping on medium heat, add a quarter cup of stock and cook until almost fully reduced.  Onions should be a caramel color and taste sweet when they’re done, remove and set aside leaving any drippings (keep bay leaf separate).
  6. Keep on medium heat, add 3/4 cups of stock and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape up the bottom and sides.
  7. Add two more cups of stock, this brings you to three total.  Add cubed squash and bay leaf bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.
  8. Boil squash until fork tender, about fifteen minutes, remove and discard bay leaf.
  9. Now is your chance to do the dishes! I like to clean up as I go so when my husband walks in its like a magic fairy brought dinner, it also saves time at the end and I feel is generally good practice to keep a clean kitchen.
  10. When squash is fork tender, transfer that and broth to large mixing bowl, set Le Creuset aside on stove top, burner off.
  11. In relatively even batches, blend broth, squash, and onions until smooth.  Add each batch back to the Le Creuset once blended, turn heat back on medium-low.
  12. When finished blending watch until the mixture begins to bubble, add cheese and stir until combined (Make it vegan! Skip the cheese and pancetta! Lower in calories and salt.)
  13. Add pasta to sauce and fold gently to combine, serve immediately, sprinkling pancetta over the top of each serving, keep leftovers three days.

 

Variations to spice up leftover night:

 

Top with a sprinkling of Feta or Gorgonzola cheese, the tangy-ness compliments the savory butternut sauce.

 

Make it baked! Layer buttered breadcrumbs on top of the pancetta and extra cheese, bake until bubbly, then broil for a minute or two until the crust browns.

 

You could even mix in a few extra bread crumbs and fry these like little fritters!

 

 

 

 

Chicken and dumplings, sans chicken…or any other animal by-product

Lots of recipes recommend using a faux chicken of sorts; I am a firm believer that the less manufacturing food goes through, the better. Because of this I buy lots and lots of raw ingredients that I then “process” myself by turning into soup or veggie burgers etc.  In this situation, I beefed up (excuse the pun) my veggies to create a filling dinner.

Ingredients:

Peas

Corn

Carrots (3 large)

Celery (2 stalks)

One onion

Baking mix w/ ingredients needed for biscuits

Bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

Six cups vegetable stock

¼ cup flour

¼ Olive oil

Method:

Prepare your biscuit dough! I make two cups worth with this recipe.

If using almond milk (or any fatty milk); pour in a tablespoon of vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes, it’ll curdle and make butter milk.  Gives the biscuits a little more…woomph.

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onion, celery, and bay leaf, cook until translucent

Add carrots and continue to cook until fork tender

This is your mirepoix; the base of many soups made up of portions of carrot, onion, and celery.  The termed was coined in the eighteenth century but it was probably used well before.  This combination for soups is actually seen in many cultures called different things.  In Spain it’s called sofrito, Portuguese speaking countries call it refogado.  Italy has a sofrito as well which is a mirepoix base with spices and finely chopped meats.  Other variations include garlic or peppers; they all have the same goal in mind, creating a flavorful base with nice bits of brown stuff on the bottom of the pan to add complexity and depth to your soup, yum!

Stir in flour until everything is coated and combined

The flour and oil (or another fat of choice) make up your roux: this thickens the sauce and has been in use in French cuisine for over three hundred years.  This method crosses cultures but without variation, fat and flour simply add up to deliciously creamy soups!

Pour the stock in slowly, stirring until fully combined

Bring to a boil, pour in peas, and allow it to come back to a rolling boil

Drop your dough one by one

Spread your drops out in a rotation, it gives the dough enough time to cook so when your fresh dough drops come back around they won’t stick together.

Keep an eye on your temperature, you want a light boil and the lid off slightly.  I have a tendency to over boil this once in a while and I get a huge overflow and mess to clean up.

Cook for twelve or thirteen minutes, I constantly take taste tests to see how done they are but I’m always full by dinner.

Serve it up; this recipe is adapted from my mother’s originally and various sources throughout the internet.  A basic crowd pleaser and a comfort meal for any time of the year (although my mother refuses to cook it between March and September because it’s a “winter dish”).