Baked Butternut Mac N’ Cheese with Kale and Bacon Breadcrumbs
This fall version of macaroni and cheese is creamy and bursting with savory sweet flavor. The sweet notes of winter squash paired with the warmth of smokey bacon give are the ultimate chilly weather flavor combination, and sauteed kale adds a punch of extra nutrition. This baked pasta dish is sure to please the whole family! Serve with a side salad or sliced apple and pear wedges.
Course: Side Dish
Keyword: butternut mac n' cheese, mac n' cheese
Author: Whitney Reist
3cupspeeled and cubed butternut squash
1 ½cupslow sodium chicken stock
1 ¼cups1% milk
2clovesof peeled garlic
3-4sprigs of fresh sage
½teaspoonfreshly cracked black pepper
⅛teaspoonfreshly grated nutmeg
1 ½cupsgrated white cheddar cheeseI used Trader Joe's Gruyere Cheddar Melange
¼cupfreshly grated Parmesan cheese
Half a box of whole wheat dried penneabout 2 ½ cups, cooked according to package directions and drained)
4ouncescenter cut bacon
½cuppanko bread crumbs
4cupschopped and stemmed kale
⅓cuplow sodium chicken stock
Preheat oven to 375.
Place the squash, 1 ½ cups stock, milk, garlic, and sage sprigs in a large pot. Bring to a boil of medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender.
Remove from heat and carefully transfer to a blender or food processor. Leaving a small opening in the top of blender or processor, pulse slowly to puree the squash mixture until smooth (the air flow will keep the hot liquid from exploding out of the equipment). Transfer the blended squash mixture and stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheeses. Set aside.
While the squash cooks, prepare the bacon. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Place on a paper towel to drain. Pour out any accumulated bacon grease from the pan and return to medium heat. Add the kale, ⅓ cup chicken broth, and sautee until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the sauteed kale and cooked pasta to the squash and cheese sauce. Toss to combine. Spread the pasta mixture into a greased 9x9 square casserole pan.
To make the bacon breadcrumbs, place the cooked bacon strips and Panko in a food processor. Pulse until a coarse mixture forms, about a minute. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the pasta dish.
Bake the pasta dish for 25 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. Serve hot!