Macaroni with Chicken Sausage, Butternut Squash Sauce and Blue Cheese
Macaroni with Chicken Sausage, Butternut Squash Sauce and Blue Cheese Photo courtesy of Pascal Shirley

Chef Jason Neroni has a passion for pasta and a fine appreciation for vegetables. So when it came time to reimagine macaroni and cheese for his Venice Beach restaurant, Superba Snack Bar, he used butternut squash, not cheddar cheese, to create a bright-orange sauce. The macaroni recalls the processed pasta that comes out of a box but tastes far more sophisticated than that retro classic from our youth. With its silky brown-butter-spiked sauce and blue-cheese garnish, we’d choose Neroni’s party-worthy version any day.

Makes 4 to 6 main-course servings
Start to Finish: About 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 pound lean chicken sausage

Juice of ½ lemon, plus more for seasoning

¾ pound fresh macaroni or rigatoni noodles

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves, for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and wrap in foil. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the flesh is fork-tender.

2. When the squash is nearly done, in a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the butter, swirling the skillet occasionally, until the butter solids are brown and have a toasty aroma, about 5 minutes. Transfer the squash and brown butter to the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. (You should have about 2 cups of puree.) Set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet set over medium heat, cook the chicken sausage until golden brown, using a wooden spoon to stir occasionally and break up the meat into bite-size pieces, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the squash puree and lemon juice until combined. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over very low heat while the pasta cooks.

4. Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss with the chicken-squash sauce until combined. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if desired.

5. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl or divide among four to six plates. Garnish with the blue cheese and rosemary, then serve immediately.

Finishing Touches

It's the details that count! Try these tips

  • If you want to make this dish with dried whole-wheat pasta instead of fresh macaroni, start preparing the pasta before cooking the chicken sausage to time the steps properly.

  • Try another blue cheese and butternut squash combination by making this risotto from Epicurious.

  • See how chef Jason Neroni puts brown butter to good use in another delicious recipe.

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