Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese for Natalie

We met in Switzerland as pimply-faced exchange students; but then went out separate ways for university and work. Then last year—11 years later—we were reunited in San Francisco. She took me in as I nursed a broken heart and attempted to start a new life. And now is no different—she’s still taking care of me (and everyone else who needs her help).

Natalie travels during the week for work, which leaves her pretty exhausted when she gets home. So to show my appreciation for all she does and will do for me, I made her this little weekend dinner treat! Hope she likes it!

P.S. She loved it! Happy me ❤

Natalie’s Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (recipe inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe courtesy of My Plate, My World)

Serves 4.

1/2 butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch thick slices

olive oil

salt and pepper

8 oz. medium-sized pasta shells (I used whole wheat)

1 1/2 reduced-fat milk

2 tbsp unsalted butter (Oops—forgot to put this in, but actually didn’t notice any difference)

2 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup grated cheese (I used sharp white cheddar, but I think you could use any kind you want)

pinch ground nutmeg

1/2 medium onion

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 chicken sausages, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

2 large handfuls spinach, washed and dried

3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I was lazy and just ripped up two slices of whole wheat bread)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Toss and coat prepared squash in a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in an oven dish until tender, 30-45 min. Remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, mash or food process until pureed. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package direction in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a pan, brown sausage. Then, add in the garlic and onion and sauté over medium heat until just golden. Stir in spinach and allow to wilt down. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, continuing to do so for about 1 min. Slowly whisk in half the milk, completely incorporating liquid and flour. Whisk in the remaining milk, then reduce heat to low and continue whisking until sauce has thickened.
  5. Stir in pumpkin puree, followed by the grated cheese. Season sauce with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Remove from heat.
  6. Finally, stir in cooked pasta shells and sauteed sausage until combined with sauce.
  7. Pour mixture into your casserole dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly and breadcrumbs are golden.
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