OK, the only thing that really makes this squash mac n cheese “adult” is the squash, which sorta makes it healthy, and responsible, until you add the cheese and bacon. And the adult-ness of it all kind of disappears when you add buttery Ritz cracker crumbs on top. I know, Ritz crackers, how kitsch of me. Hard to feel sophisticated and adult-like when you top it all off with crackers from your childhood. But there’s sage in there! It’s green, and adult-like, and healthy . . . until you fry it in bacon grease.
Which is about as “adult” my life is. The only things that make me an adult are my age and a very short list of responsibilities. The rest of my life is like cheese and bacon.
But you guys! I did get my very own adult Christmas tree . . . for the FIRST TIME. In my 12 years of adultishhood, I’ve never had my very own Christmas tree, and neither had Matt. And the kind of neat part? He planted it 10 years ago! The guy has his own tree farm. For real! You might already know this, but growing things is kind of a big deal around here.
Like this super healthy winter squash grown by, ahem, yours truly. Thank you very much. Winter squash takes up a lot of room in the garden, but depending on the variety, it can last for months in the root cellar, so I think it’s worth the space. We grew acorn, butternut, delicata, and kabocha squash this year. I’ve used every one in this recipe except acorn, although it would likely work just as well.
And you don’t need to use squash from my garden to make this mac n cheese, but it’d be cool if it came from your own. Or a local farmer. It will make you feel more adult-like when you eat it. Promise.
Squash Mac n Cheese
- 3 cups squash peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 6 –8 sage leaves
- 1 pound favorite short cut pasta
- 1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups warm whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups aged cheddar
- 2 cups Gruyere or Monterey Jack, Fontina, Havarti, or a combination of all
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- S&P to taste
- Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes.
- Remove squash and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Add squash to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water or milk as necessary.
- Rub baking dish with butter.
- Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and boil until the pasta is al-dente; drain in colander and set aside.
- While pasta boils, fry bacon in large pot. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add sage leaves to bacon grease and fry. Remove and drain on paper towels and crush over bacon mixture. Add Ritz crackers to bacon grease and toast for about 3 minutes. Add to bacon mixture. Add Parmesan to mixture. Set aside.
- In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, mustard and cayenne, and cook for 1 minute, stirring as necessary to keep from burning. Gradually add milk and heavy cream. Raise heat and bring to a boil, whisking frequently until sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in cheese. Add butternut squash and stir until fully combined and cheese is melted. Add freshly grated nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pasta. Transfer to buttered baking dish.
- Sprinkle set-aside cracker mixture over the pasta.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cracker mixture is golden brown.