Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy Butternut Squash Shells and Cheese

Do you remember last year when that one amazing soup totally sent me on butternut squash kick for awhile?

Welllll...I think it's started again. There is just something so irresistible to me about that creamy orange, mildly flavored squash. And when you pair it with ooey gooey cheese? Don't even get me started.

This recipe is no exception. It is very similar in flavor and texture to the awesomely delicious pumpkin macaroni and cheese and fairly easy to prepare. Tackling the squash is, as always, the most difficult part. You'll need a good sharp knife and some elbow grease to slice your way through the tough skin and firm flesh- but it's definitely worth it!

Easy Butternut Squash Shells and Cheese
serves about 6

3 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
4 cups cubed uncooked butternut squash (about 1 medium)- peeled and seeds removed
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups milk
6 oz. shredded cheese (I used Gruyere- fontina was recommended)
4 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 TB brown butter (for "how-to" click here)
2 TB fine bread crumbs
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (I used sage)

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare water for pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.
While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over med-low heat. Add oil, then toss in squash with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add stock and cover skillet, cooking for 15-20 min., stirring occasionally, until squash is soft and can be easily mashed. Remove cover and reduce heat to low. Mash squash with a potato masher or fork, smoothing it out with a spoon to remove all the chunks.
Add in milk, 4 oz. of the Gruyere or fontina and all of the Parmesan, stirring until melted and smooth, about 5 min. If needed, add more milk a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Stir in brown butter, again mixing for a minute or so until incorporated. Taste and add more seasoning, if desired.
Fold shells into the sauce, coating completely. If not using an oven safe skillet, transfer shells to a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 min. If a bubbly, golden topping is desired, broil 1-2 min. after cooking. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve!

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