Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Baked Macaroni and Cheeses

This was one of those dishes I saw on TV and wanted to make, and actually figured would be easy enough. Granted, it came from a show hosted by a nutritionist but it was a macaroni and cheese with veggies, but that doesn't rub it in your face (like ones with tomatoes usually do.) It still looks like mac&cheese. (I did make it with rotini once, which made it look less like the standard mac&cheese, but I liked the way elbow macaroni stuck together better, which is what the recipe originally called for.)
It isn't as creamy as traditional mac and cheese is, with a thicker texture to the sauce, more like the thickness of a baked pasta with a tomato sauce, but it's still cheesy, with a strong mustard flavor. It's a good dish, but I know it definitely could be better, but I've mostly stuck with the recipe with just a few extremely minor diversions.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Ellie Krieger's Macaroni and 4 Cheeses
serves 4

1/2 lb elbow macaroni
10-oz package frozen pureed winter squash
1 cup milk
2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated (about 2/3 cup)
1 ounce striped jack cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375ยบ.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook macaroni until not quite al dente, about 4-6 minutes. Drain and transfer to a colander or bowl.

Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, breaking up squash, until squash is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack, ricotta, salt, mustard, and cayenne pepper. Mix pasta into cheese mixture and stir to combine. Transfer into a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 2-4 minutes to brown top.

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