Bacon and Butternut Mac n Cheese

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Sometimes planets need to align for things to happen.  For example, I’ve been saying I’m going to make homemade mac n cheese for, um… about, 5 years?  I finally made it this week (the bacon and squash part was a new inspiration–see below.)!

Bacon and Butternut Mac N Cheese

Bacon and Butternut Mac N Cheese

So what finally came together?  First, someone brought a version of this dish to the recent CSA Harvest Party we attended.  Gotta highlight those nice fall veggies at a harvest party!  I kept going back to for “one last taste.”  Up until the bowl was empty.

Cutting Butternut Squash

Cutting Butternut Squash

Second, there was the half pig (organic of course) that I just bought–endowed with abundant, naturally cured, smoked bacon.

Finally my blogging friend Louise, from Months of Edible Celebrations, is celebrating World Pasta Day.  I try never to miss one of her parties!

When searching the Internet for different versions of this recipe, I was shocked at how high in fat some were.  While this one is no low-cal special, it was reasonable and I was hoping it would still be flavorful.

butternut squash

Butternut Squash

The dish was a big hit with my husband and my high schooler (who once she tasted it, shopped whining  that there was squash in it!) and the only complaint I had was that it was a bit dry. This was quickly remedied by plopping a pat of butter on each serving (which is really only 33 calories of extra fat) but I would want to play with the recipe before making it again.   I had (uncharacteristically) followed the directions (from BHG) quite closely so went back to look at the pictures and…  well, it looked dry to me in those too.  So next time, I will either increase the milk or reduce the amount of pasta from 12 to 10 ounces, which would still be plenty, since this made about eight servings.

Looking for a way to bring together good nutrition and comfort food?  This may be it!

A plateful of mac n cheese

A plateful of mac n cheese

Bacon and Butternut Mac n Cheese

Ingredients

  • 12  ounces  dried rigatoni
  • 1 1/2  pounds  butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 3/4  cups  milk
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 8  ounces flavorful cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8  slices  bacon (1/2 lb)
  • 2  leeks, diced (or 2 small onions)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2  tablespoons  butter, melted
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray a 3-quart baking dish; set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
2. In a large saucepan combine the squash and 2 1/2 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir together remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese until melted; keep warm.
Add milk to squash

Add milk to squash

3. In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels. Crumble; set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoons bacon drippings. Add onions to skillet, cover, and cook until onions are soft.  Deglaze pan with a bit of water to get off cooked bacon bits and continue cooking until onions are golden.

frying bacon

Frying bacon

4. Add squash-cheese mixture, onions, and crumbled bacon to the bowl with the pasta. Toss well to combine, then transfer to prepared baking dish.

Transfer to baking dish

Transfer to baking dish

5. Mix breadcrumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over pasta mixture. over.

Top with breadcrumbs and cheese

Top with breadcrumbs and cheese

6.  Bake until top is browned, about 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.  Makes about 8 servings.
squash-mac-served

Tips: Be sure to use a flavorful cheese–Better Homes and Gardens recommended smoked Gruyere.

If you microwave the squash before cubing, it will be softer and easier to cut.

This would probably work well as a make-ahead dish.  In that case, begin re-heating, covered, at 350 degrees, then uncover and increase temperature to brown topping when pasta is warm.

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20 Comments

  1. A lovely twist from your usual mac and cheese, fantastic idea 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  2. Sounds delicious, Inger! I was just saying that I want to make homemade mac and cheese over the weekend. Nothing beats it!

  3. I failed miserably the one and only time I attempted homemade mac & cheese. Smoked Gruyere sounds like a great addition and I love the idea of mac & cheese with squash in it.

    • I had so much cheese frozen from the American Cheese Society conference that I didn’t want to buy any more. So I just did my own blend of three cheese–two with a lot of flavor and one that I knew was an exceptional melter. That worked fine though if you leave out the bacon the smokiness from a cheese might be more significant.

  4. Oh Inger! I’m delighted that the stars aligned in our favor! Just look at what you’re bringing to the Pasta Party! It doesn’t look at all dry to me, it looks delicious! The flavors sing Autumn and who can resist a comfy dish of Mac N’ Cheese, lol…

    Thank you so much for sharing…I’m so glad you made it in time for World Pasta Day. Your number for your entree is #24, Good Luck!

  5. What a great fall twist on mac ‘n cheese!

  6. What a great way to update mac and cheese!

  7. Oh does this look amazing!! I love butternut squash and mac-n-cheese so I know I would love it! Have a great weekend, Inger!

  8. as versions of mac and cheese go, this one is terrifically unique and appetizing! excellent first batch, inger!

    • Thanks Grace. Even better my daughter practically begged to have it for dinner again tonight after eating it, hmmm, three nights last week?

  9. una comida muy saludable ,tentadora y sabrosa me encanta ,abrazos.

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