What says ‘FALL’ more than Mac and Cheese? Mac and Cheese with acorn squash, that’s what! It’s tasty, comforting, creamy and cheesy. The good-for-you acorn squash is rich in vitamins A and C and loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. On top of all that, it’s gluten-free if you want it to be and incredibly fast to make (after you have your squash roasted.) Traditionally, you have to make a roux (equal parts butter and flour) to thicken the cheese sauce, but we are skipping all of that and giving thanks to this season’s creamy squash (and delicious smoky Gouda). Speaking of giving thanks, this makes a great Thanksgiving side dish!
I know Mac and Cheese dishes with about 7 different cheeses are tempting. Don't get me wrong, I am Cheese’s #1 fan, but you don't necessarily need a variety of cheese to make this dish the scrumptious one it is. Plus, it can add up (both in $$ and calories!) Trust me, the smoked Gouda in this recipe is so flavorful you won’t need any other cheese. And don’t skimp on the sage breadcrumbs, it adds that familiar crunch!
acorn squash & smoked gouda mac and cheese + sage breadcrumbs
1 acorn squash
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2 ½ tablespoons sage, finely chopped
¾ cup breadcrumbs (gluten-free, if desired)
1 pound pasta shells (gluten-free, if desired-- I highly recommend Tinkyada)
1 cup half-and-half
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces smoked Gouda, grated (about 2 cups)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise and then cut each half in half again. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard. Place squash on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender 25-35 minutes. Scoop flesh into a bowl and discard skin.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add sage and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown; stirring.
Cook pasta 2 minutes under the package directions and drain. Reserve ½ cup pasta water in case you want to thin out your mac and cheese. Return pasta to pot.
In a blender or with an immersion blender, blend acorn squash flesh with half-and-half until pureed and smooth. Add puree to pasta with cayenne, nutmeg, and butter and cook over medium; stirring for 1 minute. Add smoked gouda in batches and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted. At this point, as you stir, gradually add pasta water if you’d like to thin it out. Serve hot and sprinkle with sage breadcrumbs.