Adapted from marthastewart.com, this mac and cheese pleased young and old and vegetarians at our holiday table. You can substitute any type of squash, and any type of short, stubby pasta. The little pinch of cayenne pepper adds balance to the dish, so don't omit it. Serves 6.
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup water (or homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock)
1-1/2 cups skim milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 lb short pasta (rotini, cellentani, or elbow macaroni)
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (storebought okay)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, divided
2 Tbsp panko
1 tsp olive oil
Olive-oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine squash, water (or stock) and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30-40 minutes more.
Serve immediately, or let cool and refrigerate for up to two days. Leftovers can be frozen.