My meat-loving child has added a new favorite food to his list, and, to my surprise, it does not include any animal meat. Like most other toddlers out there, Octavian has joined the macaroni and cheese fan club.
And, he's a big BIG fan.
Whenever I ask him what he wants to eat (it doesn't matter which meal) his immediate response is, macawoni-n-tees. I don't always oblige his request and have, so far, managed to avoid a mac-n-cheese breakfast battle. However, despite this small victory, he still eats this delicious childhood staple food more often than I would like to admit.
So, for a dinner playdate I had planned while the husband was away for the week on business, I thought I would try to trick my cheese and meat loving kiddo into eating some veggies with his new favorite food, macawoni-n-tees.
Butternut squash looks like cheese and cauliflower looks like noodles.
So, why not make butternut squash and cauliflower mac-n-cheese. The butternut squash is pureed and the cauliflower is chopped into little pieces and mixed in with the noodles. I prefer the cauliflower whole (rather than pureed), however, you can puree it with the butternut squash. You will end up with more sauce, so you may want to use only half the cauliflower and a little less squash.
That said, Octavian did really love this 'healthy' version of macaroni and cheese. He may not have shoveled it into his mouth like he does the box stuff, but he still ate an entire bowl full (and happily ate it for leftovers the next two days).
And I was happy to eat my own bowl of macaroni and cheese with him.
Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Mac n Cheese
Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 1 hour (approx.) / Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 cups milk (cow, goat, almond soy) (more if it's too thick)
1 cup ricotta cheese (full fat or low fat)
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely shredded
1 large head of cauliflower, finely chopped
1 pound (16 oz) of your favorite pasta
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
note: If you don't like ricotta cheese, feel free to omit that from the recipe. I had some sitting in the refrigerator, so I figured, why not?
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large saucepan combine the squash and milk. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, making sure not to burn the milk. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until squash is tender, approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Blend the milk and cheese in a blender or food processor and return to pot. Over low heat whisk in the flour and then the ricotta cheese. Once fully incorporated, add the salt, pepper, 2 cups of cheddar cheese and 1/2 of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Stir.
- In a large stock pot, cook the pasta and cauliflower according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook your pasta. Drain well.
- Return the pasta and cauliflower back to the stock pot and add the cheese. Give it a quick mix and taste for salt and pepper.
- Lightly grease a large casserole dish (or dutch oven) and carefully pour in your butternut squash mac n cheese. Sprinkle with the Italian breadcrumbs and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly.