As soon as I saw the March issue of Food Network Magazine in my mailbox, I was excited. The entire issue was dedicated to cheese.
Cheesy appetizers. Cheesy main dishes. Cheesy desserts. And 50 different varieties of macaroni and cheese.
As soon as I saw the Butternut Bleu Cheese Mac and Cheese in the pullout booklet, I knew I had to make it. Liam and I are crazy about butternut squash, and The Mister loves bleu cheese.
I adapted the recipe only slightly, to add a crunchy top layer. Isn't that the best part of baked macaroni and cheese?
I knew this recipe was a home run when The Mister took his first bite and said, "Wow. This is amazing!" I'm not normally a fan of bleu cheese, but when combined with the flavors of the cheddar and the butternut squash, the bleu cheese flavor wasn't overwhelming.
I also loved that I could make this recipe early in the day, refrigerate it, and warm it in the oven just before The Mister got home from work. Voila! No 4 p.m. toddler melt-downs. You could just as easily make this ahead of time and freeze it for another day.
Butternut Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese
Slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine
- 1 small (1 to 2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
- 8 ounces short pasta, such as fusili, rotini, etc.
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided,plus more for greasing the baking dish
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, heated
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 ¾ cups (11 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- Spread the butternut squash on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Fill a large saucepot with water and bring to a boil. Generously salt the water, then add the pasta, and cook to al dente using package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water before draining.
- Meanwhile, in another large saucepot, melt 4 tbsp of the butter. Add the flour, and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf, salt and nutmeg. Cook at a simmer for about 8 minutes, whisking frequently, until bubbly and thick.
- Turn the heat to low, and add 2 ½ cups of the cheddar and ¾ cup of the blue cheese to the sauce and whisk until melted.
- Use the reserved water to loosen the pasta if it has started to stick together. Add the pasta and the butternut squash to the sauce, and gently stir until evenly coated and distributed.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish with butter. Scrape the mac and cheese into the baking dish. If baking later, cover and chill in the refrigerator. If not, skip to Step 9.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the mac and cheese for 20 minutes.
- Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter. Place the bread crumbs in a small bowl, and add the melted butter, and toss with your fingers until evenly moistened. Add the remaining ¼ cup each of cheddar and blue cheese and toss to combine. Spread over the mac and cheese, then broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs begin to brown.
Number of servings (yield): 6