I consider this dish an adult, sophisticated version of the classic Mac-n-Cheese. I got the recipe from my friend Madelyn, and it is a winner! The orange-yellow color comes from squash. You can use any squash, but pumpkin or butternut squash work very well. It's creamy and satisfying while being packed with extra nutrition.
Squash Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound whole grain elbow macaroni: boiled until tender but still firm
2 pounds squash or 2 10-oz packages frozen pureed squash
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk
6 ounces of shredded cheese (a variety of favorite melting cheeses works nicely)
1/2 cup to 1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or mustard powder
dash of picante sauce (optional: my addition)
Parmesan or other cheese for topping
If using fresh squash:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice squash in half and place face down on a greased pan and bake about an hour, until the squash is tender. An alternative for faster cooking: peel, seed and cube squash and coat with oil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
2. Puree the cooked and peeled squash with 1 1/2 cups of milk in blender or food processor. Add to a large saucepan and simmer on low until heated. If it is too thick, add more milk, a 1/2 cup at a time. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the ricotta cheese, starting with 1/2 a cup, and tasting to see if you want to add more. Stir in the mustard and optional picante sauce. Stir in some of the shredded cheeses, reserving enough for topping. Adjust oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Proceed to step 3 below.
If using frozen squash:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place the frozen squash and two cups of milk in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, breaking up the squash as it defrosts. Once the squash is defrosted and heated, blend either with an immersion blender or in a blender if the mixture isn't smooth enough. But, if it is smooth enough already, skip that step. Add the ricotta, mustard and picante sauce (if using) and stir in some of the cheese, reserving enough for topping.
3. Combine the squash sauce with the cooked pasta and place in a greased baking pan. Top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted, and it is hot and bubbly. Turn up the heat or turn on the broiler to for a few minutes to crisp and brown lightly, if desired.
Note added November 2007: be sure to check out Madelyn's blog, Karma-Free Cooking.