The one thing that stands out for me in this recipe? The fact that my beloved meat-and-potatoes husband, J, knew I was making something with squash. I’m a proud wife. If only I could get him to eat it.
He couldn’t quite name the other vegetable in this fancied-up version of a classic dish – Butternut Squash and Sunchoke Mac & Cheese. Admittedly, I don’t think I would have been able to either, had I not ordered the vegetable from my weekly Buying Club where each item is individual labeled and packaged.
The sunchoke, or Jerusalem artichoke, debuted it’s nutty flavor in my kitchen this past week; roasted, salted and lightly oiled with a cubed sweet potato. To me, the flavor meanders between a potato, a water chestnut, and a sweet onion — all things enjoyed by my taste buds. So I figured, why not puree with a butternut squash to add a little depth to everyone’s favorite pasta and cheese dish.
Sunchokes are rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, and iron, as well as inulin, a carbohydrate linked with good intestinal health due to its prebiotic (bacteria promoting) properties. Inulin is added to many commercially-produced foods to inject fiber and create a “healthier” product, often used to replace some of the fat and sugar or to modify texture and taste (see other functional uses and potential health benefits here). It is usually extracted from chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke by chopping and mixing the root with water to make a wet pulp. The water is evaporated and the final product is spray dried to create inulin powder, ready for use in pre-packaged products. All that to say, sunchokes are healthy and an excellent vegetable for your winter produce rotation.
The roasted winter produce makes this sweeter than your average mac and cheese; the velvety, rich texture of this dish makes it feel so decadent, yet it’s nutritious and satisfying on so many levels. The dish comes together pretty quickly once the sunchokes and squash are pureed. And while this certainly tastes fantastic as a stove-top mac and cheese, I think the bit of breadcrumbs browned and crunchy from the oven is just the thing to take this recipe over the edge — in a good way.
This is sure to be another cold weather favorite; in fact, it lasted me through the work week, re-heated with some fresh spinach just because you can’t go wrong with a little added green. Although that wouldn’t help my case with J…
Butternut Squash and Sunchoke Mac & Cheese
Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles recipe.
For more information on the locally acquired ingredients, please click on the ingredient hyperlinks, below.
1/2 small butternut squash (I used the top half – no seeds)
2 medium sunchokes, peeled
12 ounces elbow macaroni
1/4 tsp pepper (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup vegetable stock
4 ounces Muenster cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- Optional: whole wheat bread crumbs
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the sunchokes (as able, they are knobby little things) and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Lay squash cut side down, with sunchokes, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted into the flesh meets no resistance.
- Scoop flesh from the squash and mash it with a fork. Mash sunchokes as well. You may want to puree in a blender or food processor – I used the attachment on my Cuisinart hand blender and pureed in batches.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, add about a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta until it’s tender. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the foaming subsides, add the flour and mustard. Whisk constantly for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream.
- Add the pepper, cheeses, ½ teaspoon table salt, and the squash, stirring until the cheese melts.
- Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and stir thoroughly. Serve immediately, or, pour into an 8″ square baking dish, top with bread crumbs and finish under the oven broiler for about 10 minutes or bubbly with brown edges.