Frivolous Friday: A Big Pot of Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash

many cheeses

A few weeks ago on Frivolous Friday, I posted about cooking up big pots of things and freezing them into little Tupperwares, as an efficient way to cook at home for one or two people. I promised recipes: here is one, with our modifications, mostly in the direction of making it easier.

We start with this recipe from Epicurious. A few modifications:

For this recipe, there is absolutely no reason to bake your own butternut squash. Frozen is fine. I’m a big fan of cooking fresh things, but I’m also a big fan of making things easy when the hard way doesn’t really add anything. In this case, frozen butternut squash is 100% fine: it’s not the dominant flavor, and it’s just going to get mixed up into the sauce so texture is a non-issue. And using frozen cuts a BIG chunk of time and hassle from the recipe. Microwave it so it’s warm when you mix it into the sauce.

In the Epicurious recipe, the proportions of sauce to pasta are WAAAAAAY off. The first time we made it, we ended up with cheesy soup with some pasta in it. The second time around, we doubled the amount of pasta, and it worked perfectly. (Actually, we doubled the recipe and quadrupled the pasta. When we make big pots of things, we do not kid around.)

The crispy Parmesan wheels are nice, and they’re not difficult to make, but they’re not necessary. Ditto the fried sage leaves, although we do still use chopped-up fresh sage. If you’re going to do just one of these, I’d suggest the fried sage leaves, since it’s nice to start the roux with sage-y butter. It’s also nice to grate a little Parm on top when you’re serving it, if you feel like it. Because cheese!

On the advice of the (we think) dyke at Rainbow Grocery, who was obsessed with mac and cheese and spent lots of time talking with us about it, we added Brie and Tallegio to the sauce. It was a nice flourish: it made it very creamy, and the Tallegio gave it a nice little bite. (The recipe can be a little unctuous, and the bite helps.) You don’t need much Tallegio or Brie, just enough to make it creamy and a little tangy without being too rich. Another bitey soft cheese would also work: we used Tallegio because it was on sale, and also the dyke at Rainbow Grocery recommended it, and she was cute and nice and seemed like she knew what she was talking about. Cheap Brie is fine: you’re not putting it on crackers and serving it to the Queen, you’re melting it into mac and cheese. We also substituted Gruyere for some of the Swiss. Yes, that meant we used five cheeses: Fontina, Swiss (Emmentaler, actually), Gruyere, Tallegio, and Brie. Six if you count the Parmesan. What’s your point? (This recipe calls for Fontina and Swiss as the bsae, which work well for us — but if you have cheeses you prefer for mac and cheese, go for it. It’s also fine to just use Fontina and Swiss: we did that the first time, and it was perfectly lovely.)

We’ve found that this recipe is well-served by including chopped-up green veggies of some kind. It makes it more vegetal and vegetally-varied, turns it into more of a full meal in one bowl, and again cuts into the rich unctuousness, which is delish but can be a little much. We’re still working out how to best do that: roasted asparagus worked well, blanched asparagus worked okay but got a little mushy on being re-heated. We’re also going to try peas, and probably cut-up leafy greens of some sort. (If you try this and it turns out well, let us know what you did!)

We added powdered mustard as well as cayenne, which also adds some bite, and apparently also helps melted cheese stay smooth and melty.

We really like a half-and-half mix of white pasta and whole wheat pasta. And we like penne, as it stands up well to being frozen and re-heated.

If you try this out with your own variants, let us know how it goes!

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!

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Frivolous Friday: A Big Pot of Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash
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