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Macaroni and Cheese in Acorn Squash Bowls
Macaroni and Cheese in Acorn Squash Bowls PHOTO: LIZ ANDREW/STYLING: ERIN MCDOWELL

In vegan versions of mac and cheese, pureed squash is often used as a cheese replacement. That’s because it’s super gooey and creamy, just like the real deal. We added it to this extremely cheesy (and decidedly un-vegan) version for even more lusciousness. Meet macaroni and cheese in acorn squash bowls. They’re what heaven tastes like.

RELATED: Stuffed Eggplant

Makes 4 servings

Acorn Squash

4 small acorn squash

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 sweet onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2½ cups whole milk

1 pound short pasta

2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Topping

½ cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1. Make the Squash: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. If the squashes don’t sit flat, slice a small amount off the base of each to level it out. Cut around the stem of each squash and remove the top. Scoop out and discard the seeds inside. Rub the inside of each squash with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer the squashes to the baking sheet, replace their tops and roast until the flesh is tender but not so soft that it begins to collapse, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. Make the Mac and Cheese: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.

5. Add the flour to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add the milk gradually, whisking to incorporate. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions. Drain well.

7. Put the sauce back on the stove over medium-low heat. Stir in the cheddar and Monterey Jack until melted. Add the mustard, nutmeg, thyme and sage; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta, tossing well to coat in the sauce.

8. Divide the mac and cheese among the prepared acorn squash bowls.

9. Make the Topping: In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, Parmesan and butter. Sprinkle the topping over the mac and cheese. (At this point, you can wrap the squashes in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to two days before baking and finishing.)

10. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and has thickened slightly, 15 to 20 minutes (20 to 30 minutes if baking from the refrigerator).

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