I was just talking to my mom the other day about how I don't remember many "traditional" Thanksgiving meals growing up. Yes, we would usually have turkey at my Grandma Purdy's house. Usually mashed potatoes and gravy. Probably a green bean casserole. But we didn't usually do yams and squash or even cranberry sauce. We didn't have stuffing either, at least from what I remember. Keep in mind that I was a picky eater for awhile there so it is very likely that those things actually WERE at the dinner, I just chose to ignore them. Either way, I didn't get to those traditional things until I was older.
I've warmed to squash over the last few years but it's still not a favorite of mine. When I came across this recipe, I thought it was the perfect combination of something I LOVE and something I'm learning to love. And also a perfect side at a Thanksgiving dinner with friends.
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb) peeled, seeded and cut into one inch cubes
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 small onion, diced
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups skim milk
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
2 cups grated gouda cheese (not smoked, they recommend aged Marieke)
1 cup grated two year old aged parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup crumbled gingersnap cookies (about 8 cookies)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper to season on a foil-lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and easy to stick a fork into. Set aside and turn oven down to 350.
2. While the squash is cooking, put cookies and pecans in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is as chunky or thin as you like.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente according to package instructions.
4. While the pasta cooks, heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the butter, chopped onion and sage. Saute about 4-5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add the flour and stir to combine. Let the mixture cook for 1-2 more minutes. Whisk in stock and milk and let come to a boil to thicken up.
5. Next, add the cheeses, mustard, nutmeg and cayenne. Stir to combine. Then, mix in the squash. Use a whisk to mash up the squash a little. It's up to you on if you want to leave some chunks in the sauce or not. Salt and pepper to taste.
6. Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and combine well. Pour the mac n cheese into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle the gingersnap cookie pecan crumble over the top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue until lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes more.
This is time consuming but, as I said earlier, perfect for a different spin on a Thanksgiving favorite.