This time of year it's all about comfort food, right? The cooler weather just draws us to find warmth any way we can. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had some rainy days. I know you are probably surprised to hear that :) It's all good though. That's what makes our region so beautiful. It also makes for some great evenings of warm bowls of soup, chili, stews, and other warm, hearty meals.
Have you ever tried butternut squash mac n' cheese? If not, I have one word for you...YUM! This is at the top of my list of comfort foods I'm totally digging right now. That is really saying a lot because I hardly ever, or really almost never, eat pasta. But this is one dish I am willing to splurge on!
The sauce is amazing. It is dairy free, so obviously there is no actual cheese in it. But there is some nutritional yeast in it which gives it a somewhat cheesy aspect. Savory spices are also included which give the sauce a variety of flavors. You can certainly add cheese to it if that is your desire. I would recommend using about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese of your choosing. A grass-fed cheddar would be delicious! If you do decide to add cheese, I would simply add it in when you are mixing the pasta with the sauce. Or, you could sprinkle some over the top and melt it in the oven for a few minutes. Just a few suggestions. If you tolerate dairy and want to use milk instead of coconut milk, that is also fine. I would use whole milk though as you will want it to have a creamy aspect.
A pecan crumb topping is added at the end to give it a nice nutty flavor and texture. This is completely optional. If you prefer to eat it with the noodles and sauce only, it is still amazing! I make the pecan meal by simply placing some pecans in a food processor and process until you have reached a medium to fine grind.
Choose whatever pasta fits your dietary needs. If you are following a gluten-free diet, choose your favorite gluten-free pasta. If you happen to follow a Paleo regimen, this sauce is fantastic over some spaghetti squash or a spiralized noodle. You will more than likely find that you have some some left over after mixing the cooked pasta and sauce. Save the sauce. We find it is nice to drizzle some extra sauce over your servings. It is also good to have should you have any left over mac n' cheese.
This recipe is inspired by and dedicated to my Aunt Jaynie. She's a butternut squash mac n' cheese lover and after you try this, hopefully you will be too!
Mac n' Cheese:
3 1/3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (1 medium squash)
1 cup yellow onion, diced
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
12 oz pasta of your choice, or 4-5 cups spaghetti squash or spiralized noodles
Pecan Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup pecan meal
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel and dice the butternut squash, dice onion, and peel garlic cloves. Place in a large bowl and toss with some sea salt, pepper, and 2 Tbs of melted coconut oil. Place the ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender.
2. If you plan on adding the pecan crumb topping, prepare pecan meal by placing the pecans in a food processor and process until you have reached a medium to fine grind. Add all of the pecan crumb topping ingredients in a bowl and lastly, mix in the melted coconut oil. Set aside.
3. With about 10 minutes left on roasting the squash, start to boil your water for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. If you plan on using spaghetti squash or spiralizing some noodles, use the appropriate amount of time to prep that.
4. As your pasta is cooking, add the roasted squash and vegetables to your high speed blender. Then add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, sea salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. If you don't have a high speed blender, you can place all of the ingredients in a large pot or bowl and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
5. Drain your pasta and combine the butternut squash sauce to the noodles. If you plan on adding the pecan topping, place the mac n' cheese in an oven safe dish and top with the pecan crumb mixture. Bake at 400°F for about 10 minutes. If you don't plan on adding the pecan crumb topping, simply enjoy after you combine the sauce and noodles.
6. You will probably find you have some sauce left over after mixing the noodles. Save the sauce. It is nice to drizzle more sauce on before eating or if you have leftovers. Serves 6.