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Autumn Mac and Cheese


 

In case you are keeping track, I have an irrational fear of mac and cheese. Yes it’s true, mac and cheese elicits the same feelings in me as spiders, the Wizard of Oz, and team mascots. You see, when I was in culinary school, we had an assignment to make mac and cheese. I felt so bad for my partner, everyone else’s sauce came out creamy and cheesy and smooth. Ours, however, came out gritty and clumpy and looked like we had stuck a bowl of noodles covered in cheese in the microwave. From that point on, I vowed to stay away from any mac and cheese recipe. I hate to admit it, but I actually love the kind that comes in the blue box. Especially when you mix a can of tuna into it. But seeing that my anti-box guild membership has yet to run out, I decided I needed to face my fears and learn how to make mac and cheese.

The other night, after a much needed step class at the gym, I decided I was going to have more than just cookies and rolls for dinner (don’t judge, it’s what’s in the house right n0w). I had saved this recipe awhile ago and I decided that I was going to give it a try. I figured that with all of the interesting ingredients, this could either be really good, or really horrible.  I mean apples? And brussel sprouts? And cheese? That doesn’t really sounds too appetizing, does it? I was already preparing my back up meal of cookies and roll as this came out of the oven. I took a skeptical bite and shouted “DELICIOUS!”, which evoked awkward and confused looks from the dogs.

There is no one flavor that takes center stage in this dish, the flavors blend perfectly together. The apples give this dish a bit of sweetness while the brussel sprouts add a good bite. The cheddar cheese is a perfect accompaniment to the vegetables, and it adds a sharpness that really helps pull the flavors together. This was so good, I had to stop myself from going back for thirds. I feel a little more confident and a little less scared about mac and cheese now. I may just think twice before reaching for that blue box. I would definitely make this again, maybe with some different vegetables. Or tuna. I’m just saying…

Autumn Mac and Cheese
Yield: 6 servings
printer friendly version

1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used egg noodles)
1/2 butternut squash – peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 large granny smith apple – peeled, cored, and chopped
1 small onion – chopped
2 cups brussels sprouts – stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces cheese – grated (I used sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese – grated (plus more for topping)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay chopped squash and apples on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

While the squash is roasting, heat a skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and brussels sprouts with a pinch of salt and saute for 6-8 minutes, turning frequently until brussel sprouts begin to brown.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. When cooked al dente, drain and set aside.

Mix together squash, apples, brussel sprouts, and onions in a bowl and set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter on medium heat. When fully melted, add the flour and whisk constantly until a light brown color is achieved. This is your roux. Continue to whisk while adding the milk, cayenne, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue whisking as the milk heats up. When you see the first bubble, add the cheddar and  parmesan cheeses in batches. Make sure the cheese has melted before adding the next batch. Continue to whisk together so the cheese melts and doesn’t stick to the bottom. The entire process takes about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick, but not too thick, as it will thicken more in the oven.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Layer pasta, vegetables, and cheese sauce in batches, then gently mix to combine. Top with panko and another sprinkling of parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top has browned and the cheese is melted.

Adapted from: How Sweet It Is (Seriously, check out her blog, it’s fantastic!!)

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