Mac & Cheese with Squash and Spinach
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.
Mac & Cheese with Squash and Spinach
Adapted from Culinate
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
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