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Mac & Cheese with Squash and Spinach

February 6, 2011

Hello and Happy New Year! Long time no see. I’m not much one for official “resolutions” for the new year, but I’ve missed blogging here and I’m going to do my best to get on a more regular schedule again.

Lately, I’ve been pondering if, and how, what I blog about should change. My life has changed since I began blogging in 2008 — our daughter is now 14 months old, running around at full speed, spreading her joy with her wherever she goes — and so much of my time is now spent focused on her and our life as “three.” And with little A now an extremely active toddler, my time in the kitchen has shifted from leisurely weekend culinary projects towards…well, spending lots of time chasing after her! I’m not really spending hours at a time in the kitchen on the weekend, cooking up project-type recipes. My focus has skewed more towards cooking healthy, straightforward, delicious meals that she (as well as B and I) will love. (And still desserts, of course!) The food blogging landscape seems to have changed somewhat since I began blogging, too — monetization, blogging conferences, and sponsors, oh my! — but I still want to come here to do what I originally started this blog to do: share my enthusiasm for food, and share recipes that I think are really delicious. Pretty simple. :)

So, while the past few months have slipped by since my last post, the good news is that I have a few recipes queued up to tell you about. First on the list: mac and cheese. Who doesn’t love it? This crazy winter we’re having in the Northeast seems to have upped our craving for comfort-food dishes, and I started thinking about mac & cheese when I was brainstorming dinner dishes that little A would like (she, like most kids, can consume ungodly amounts of cheese.)

The idea to make this came after I saw a recipe for squash mac and cheese in the newsletter I get from Culinate. We’ve been working our way through an ever-growing pile of squash in our basement from our winter CSA, so incorporating it into mac and cheese sounded not only like a nice departure from my roasted squash rut, but also a great way to up the vegetable quotient of the dish. I decided to make it a one-dish meal by adding some chopped spinach, and the result was really fantastic.

To all you football fans out there: enjoy Super Bowl! We may venture out into the snow-covered fields around our house for a walk, then come in and warm up with some hot chocolate. Sounds like a great winter day to me.
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Mac & Cheese with Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Culinate

Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash or 2 small acorn squash
1 lb. short dried pasta, such as elbow macaroni or penne rigate
10 ounces frozen spinach, drained and chopped
Olive oil for the pasta and the pan
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
⅛ cup flour
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1 cup grated Gruyère
1½ cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)
Parmesan, for grating

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast halved squash in the oven on a sheet pan until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size squash you have. When done cooking, remove squash from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh into a bowl (discard seeds and stringy pulp) and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water; drain and return to cooking pot. Toss with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

Turn oven down to 375 degrees.

Add the chopped spinach, mustard, garlic, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour to the bowl with the mashed squash; mix well. Add the cheese and milk, and mix well. Add the pasta and toss until evenly coated with the squash/spinach/cheese mixture.

Spread mixture into a lightly oiled 9×13 inch baking dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter until coated, then sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs evenly across the top of the pasta. Grate a thin layer of Parmesan on top of the breadcrumbs.

Bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Let cool briefly before serving.

Serves about 8

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 10:34 am

    I take it from the color scheme that you’re rooting for the Packers? ;) Sounds delicious. I just made nacho mac and cheese for the super Bowl party I’m attending. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a big bowl of cheesy pasta.

    • February 6, 2011 2:25 pm

      Ooh, nacho mac & cheese – *that* sounds delicious! I agree, cheese + pasta is always a guaranteed hit. We are actually not really into football here, though I do love the appetizers and dips that go with a good Super Bowl viewing. :)

  2. Maggie permalink
    February 6, 2011 11:23 am

    This looks delicious! Such a cute picture of little A – love the sunglasses :)

  3. February 6, 2011 7:38 pm

    Great spin on classic mac & cheese. Now I have a craving for some :)

  4. February 6, 2011 8:58 pm

    Thanks so much for this – made it tonight, gorgeous. The little bit of heat from the cayenne was perfect! Adorable pic of A too!

  5. February 6, 2011 9:05 pm

    little A is adorable!!! and i love the sounds of this mac n cheese. i haven’t had mac n cheese in too long, will have to rectify that :)

  6. Betsy permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:58 am

    Looks delicious Amy!

  7. February 7, 2011 11:05 am

    First and foremost, your blog has always been lovely and will continue to be no matter which direction you take it. I do hope you write more but I know how hard it can be. Those toddlers are busy people! I absolutely love the look of this mac and cheese. I love it as much as the next person but the regular stuff can get a little redundant to me. Just too much cheese and richness. I would imagine the squash and spinach do a great job of cutting it a bit. Happy new year to you too!

    • February 7, 2011 9:00 pm

      Thanks Dana! :) Yes, that’s exactly it – the squash and spinach cut the richness just a bit.

  8. February 7, 2011 8:10 pm

    this looks great!!! i am going to bookmark this one…thanks :)

  9. Emily permalink
    February 7, 2011 8:45 pm

    So glad to see you posting again Amy — and this sound fantastic! And I love seeing mac and cheese recipes that don’t involve 8 pounds of cheese and 1 pound of butter per pound of pasta… Will make it soon!

    • February 7, 2011 9:02 pm

      Yes, as much as you and I like cheese, Em – the squash and spinach are a nice counterpoint to all that richness. The gruyere, especially, is great with the squash. Hope you guys enjoy :)

  10. Corrine permalink
    February 8, 2011 1:28 pm

    Please do blog some more about healthy (and toddler friendly) food :) I’ve been a follower of your blog pre-baby, and now that I have a 13 month old boy, I would love to read more about your culinary explorations (among others) with your family!

    • February 12, 2011 7:45 pm

      Oh, so you’re in the same stage we are, I’m sure! Sometimes I feel like she loves everything I put in front of her, and sometimes she chews and spits everything out. I’ll certainly try to keep the ideas coming!

  11. ger permalink
    February 8, 2011 1:59 pm

    I LOVE your postings/website/photos!!! Thank you so much. gp

  12. February 10, 2011 1:49 pm

    That looks gorgeous and oh what a cutie! I first started blogging around the same time so I feel like I am going through the same thing – may be partly what happens when you’re around 3 years in and find that your interests and passions are evolving.

  13. February 10, 2011 5:35 pm

    Welcome back!! Love any kind of mac n cheese!

  14. Helen in CA permalink
    February 11, 2011 4:36 pm

    You’ve been missed

  15. February 13, 2011 9:30 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that I made this tonight with my friends— AMAZING. they all LOVED it. thank you for the recipe! I will let you know when I post it on my blog :)

  16. Robin permalink
    February 14, 2011 5:19 pm

    Welcome back, and keep on posting! You’re the one blog I still read consistenly, I love your cooking and photos. An inspiration!

  17. February 16, 2011 12:37 pm

    Looks delicious!

  18. Sherry permalink
    February 18, 2011 8:07 pm

    Amy, I made this for Uncle Bob tonight and WE BOTH LOVED IT! We had some leftover squash from our garden, so this was a graet way to use it – I love the combination of the flavors ~ just incredible!

  19. Jen permalink
    February 22, 2011 6:00 pm

    I just found your blog today while searching for cauliflower soup. I love what you have done with the mac and cheese. I have a 26 month old daughter who has decided she is not a big fan of plain veggies so this will be on my list of things to make this week. Would love to see toddler friendly recipes.

  20. Selena permalink
    March 14, 2011 11:05 pm

    I made this tonight, although I could not add the squash for lack of time. (I will have to add it next time!) My husband and I were so pleasantly surprised by all the flavor!! Wow, it was really great! And not too cheesey… such a nice balance of senses! We loved it.

  21. Maria permalink
    April 9, 2011 8:10 pm

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was well received by my spouse and his teenage Little Brother.
    This is something I’ll be making again and again. Thanks for posting!

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