Macaroni cheese is a special kind of dish. I have spoken to a few people and it seems that macaroni cheese is the one exception to aversions to processed food. When I had my first job and was spending all my money on rent and hair dye, I would sometimes buy Sainsburys Basics Macaroni Cheese for dinner (75p). Feel free to judge me, but at the time it was delicious. Of course homemade is much better, made in the oven not the microwave.
There is less cheese in this recipe than other macaroni cheeses, and also more vegetable, so I would like to think that is somewhat healthy, relatively speaking. The use of butternut squash also makes it pleasingly orange coloured.
1 medium sized butternut squash – on the smallish side of ‘medium’. Peel and cut into roughly 2cm sized dice.
1 tbsp olive oil
250g pasta (approx). I actually never make macaroni cheese with macaroni - somehow it always has to be called macaroni cheese though, I guess that ‘conchiglione rigati cheese’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Make sure you choose a pasta type that has a hollowness, or other texture conducive to this kind of sauce.
For the sauce:
1 pint milk
Handful grated cheddar. Throw in a bit of crumbled blue stilton (or similar) if you have it
A few grinds of fresh nutmeg
¼ tsp English mustard
3 -4 sage leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
Approx 1 ½ tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent)
1 tbsp toasted hazelnuts (I used the ready-chopped ones for this)
About 2-3 sage leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Arrange the squash cubes on a baking tray, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes, until cooked through and caramelised in parts.
To make the sauce melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook the roux for a minute or two, stirring continuously, to remove any ‘raw’ flour taste. Add the milk about half a ladle-full at a time, stirring continuously to prevent lumps and ensure everything is completely amalgamated.
Once all of the milk has been incorporated, add the nutmeg, sage, cheese, mustard and seasoning (taste to make sure it is seasoned properly). Then take about half of the roasted butternut squash cubes and mash or blend them into the sauce. I used a potato masher for this, which worked really well.
Cook the pasta for about 3 minutes less than packet instructions. Drain it and mix with the cheese-y squash sauce (use a bit of the pasta cooking water if it the sauce is too thick) and the remaining cubes of roasted squash in an oven-safe relatively deep dish. As I was using a ‘stuff-able’ pasta, I used a spoon to wedge some squash cubes into each pasta shell.
Mix together the topping ingredients and scatter them over the top of the macaroni cheese. Bake at approx 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the bake is bubbling and the top is golden and crispy.