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Butternut Mac and Cheese - total time 1 hour


It is getting cold outside... bring on the comfort foods!  

It took me several tries before I got homemade mac and cheese right.  Every time I would try making the cheese sauce separately in a sauce pan and every time it would kind of curdle.  Really gross and a big waste of yummy cheeses.  Now I realize it was because everything was still right-out-of-the-fridge cold and that kind of quick temperature change does bad things to dairy.

I promised myself I would give it one more go, but I had to use a different method.  Instead of making the sauce separate... I let all of the ingredients warm to room temperature in the casserole dish, then add the steaming hot pasta and mix it together.  The cheese, cream, onions, etc combine nicely... and whatever doesn't melt will melt in the oven.  Not only does this method work, but it keeps a pot clean... and a cheese pot is one of the hardest to clean... so this is definitely a win-win.

Now that we have a base recipe, I can create variations that bring in some vegetables so the dish isn't just a pure carb fest!  Enter butternut squash!  A versatile vegetable loaded with beta carotene, potassium, and anti-oxidants.  It lends a kind of buttery texture while adding a touch of sweetness.  This mac and cheese is definitely in our fall/winter recipe rotation... especially when it is extra cold outside!
1 butternut squash
.5 medium onion, minced
1 lb white cheddar, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
.5 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
.5 cup cream
3 cups shell pasta
2 tbsp butter
.25 cup parm, shredded
.25 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on halved butternut squash and drizzle a little olive oil on top.  Roast in your oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
2.  Saute minced onion and garlic in butter in a pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes
3.  Cook pasta according to package.
4.  Add cream, creme fraiche, sauteed onions and garlic, smashed butternut, cooked pasta, salt, pepper, and shredded cheese to casserole dish.  Stir to combine.  Sprinkle bread crumbs and parm on top.
5.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top (optional: turn on broiler for last minute to add even more crispiness)

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