Epic Macaroni and Cheese (With Veggies of Course!)

This was a potential experiment that I only followed up on because the host of movie night said he liked broccoli.  But boy am I glad I did!  Peter did most of the work while I was busy de-antifying the house (also called cleaning by other people who don’t have the occasional attack of tiny black specks).  I came into the kitchen just in time to pulverize a couple things in the food processor and put the pretty colored veggies together… my timing was perfect!  If you don’t already follow 101 Cookbooks, I encourage you to stop by, if only for the version of this recipe I used (originally from Hungry? The innocent recipe book for filling your family with good stuff by Anna Jones, Vanessa Hattersley, and innocent).  Not only does the food blog feature delicious recipes focusing on whole grains and vegetables, but Heidi sometimes posts “Favorites Lists” of random links she likes, keeping me thoroughly entertained for entire evenings of internet surfing.

Epic Macaroni and Cheese Featuring Broccoli, Basil, Cherry Tomatoes, and Winter Squash in a Sauce of Cheesy Goodness
1 winter squash (kabocha or butternut… acorns are a pain to peel), peeled and cubed
3 cups whole wheat pasta, curlicue or macaroni shaped
2 slices toasted bread
1 bunch basil leaves
Olive oil
1/2 medium head of broccoli, roughly chopped (to fit in food processor)
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 heaping handful orange cherry tomatoes
1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cups grated gouda cheese
Salt
This has many steps, so I’m gonna break it down.  But start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.
1) Mix cubed winter squash with olive oil and salt and bake on a baking tray for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through.
2) Cook the pasta until al dente (the pasta will cook a tiny bit more when the whole casserole is baked).  Drain the pasta and mix with a bit of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water for later use.
3) Make the topping: in a food processor pulverize the toasted bread, half the basil leaves, the broccoli, and a generous drizzle olive oil until pieces are crumb-sized.
4) Start the sauce for the macaroni and cheese: in a food processor pulverize the cherry tomatoes and the other half of the basil until the tomatoes are just broken up.  Mix with sour cream and the cheese.
5) Mix the pasta, sauce, and squash: mix the pasta with the tomato-cheese sauce from step (4). Add enough of the pasta cooking water for the sauce to be the consistency of cream (the final bake will allow the pasta to soak up more liquid). Add the baked winter squash. Add salt!
6) Assemble the casserole: put the pasta/sauce mixture into the desired oiled baking dish. Top with the broccoli-basil-bread topping.  Optional: top with additional halved cherry tomatoes.
7) Bake the casserole for 20-30 minutes.

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