Aimee Wimbush-Bourque is the editor of the well-known food website Simple Bites, and her own personal blog, Under the High Chair. I love reading her beautiful posts, they ar terrifically informative and always illustrated with mouth-watering photos. Aimee writes about all sort of topics ranging from family recipes and introducing children to the kitchen, to batch cooking and holiday preparation. A culinary school graduate and busy mom of two young boys, she has an arsenal of tips and tricks, like her Ultimate Holiday Shopping List, from which we all can learn. Today she has graciously shared her delicious recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese and everything you need to know about making it ahead, having your children help you, and freezing the leftovers.
Naptime Chef: Your Butternut Squash Baked Macaroni & Cheese sounds amazing! Can you give some tips for home cooks on ways they can make this ahead of time/incorporate their kids into the process/serve it to family and friends? Also, can it be frozen? Reheated for a second meal? (click here for more of my interview with Aimee!)
Aimee: I know butternut squash in macaroni and cheese isn’t anything novel, but around our table it is; any dish that brings more vegetables into my children’s diet is a winner in my books. This recipe is surprisingly healthy for mac & cheese, as it incorporates nearly an entire squash and uses whole-wheat egg-white pasta for a substantial and low-cholesterol meal. I love this dish because it feels like a hearty main dish even though it is meatless. The crunchy topping of panko, Parmesan and coconut makes it irresistible and even the kids ask for seconds! Another bonus is the gratin versatility. I’ve included do-ahead suggestions below and freezing directions after the recipe. The whole-wheat noodles hold up very well in the freezer and the squash keeps the whole dish moist when re-heated.
Do ahead: Bake squash & puree (1-2 days ahead) Cook & cool pasta (up to 12 hours ahead) Grate cheese (2-3 days ahead) Combine topping (up to one day ahead)
Kids can: Grate cheese Stir sauce Sprinkle topping
Creamy Butternut Squash & Whole-Wheat Noodle Gratin
- 500 g organic whole-wheat egg-white noodles
- ½ sweet onion, such as Vidalia, diced
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 3 Tablespoons flour 3 cups organic whole milk
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 1/3 cups butternut squash puree (method below)
- 2 cups grated cheese (I used a combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and Emmental)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup Panko or plain breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, not powdered
- 2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut, shredded
For the egg noodles: Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot of water to a boil; salt generously. Add pasta, stir well, and cook one minute less than indicated on the package. Drain into a colander and set aside.
For the sauce: In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, stir to coat and cook gently for about five minutes. Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir well. Slowly add milk, whisking well. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often until mixture thickens slightly and floury taste is gone. Add squash puree and mix well. Add cheese, a few handfuls at a time, stirring continually. Once all the cheese has been added and melted, stir in Dijon, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the topping: Combine Panko, Parmesan and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Set aside.
To assemble: Combine cheese sauce and cooked egg noodles together until noodles are well coated. Divide between two buttered 8-inch square pans or casseroles. Top with reserved Panko topping. Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes or until bubbly around the edges. Serve at once.
To freeze: Prepare the butternut squash gratin recipe in full, but stopping just before baking. Instead, wrap entire pans tightly in plastic wrap, mark with the date, and flash freeze.
To reheat: remove wrapping and place in a 350F oven. Bake until heated through and bubbly around the edges.
For the squash puree: 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds) Wash and peel squash; trim ends. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut bottom third off of the squash, then halve that and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Chop the entire squash into roughly 1-½ inch pieces. Place squash in a medium pot and fill with cold water. Add a ½ teaspoon of salt and place over high heat. Cover pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender; about 10 minutes. Drain, return the squash to the pot and mash with a potato masher or whirl with n immersion blender. Puree can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.