Friday, March 26, 2010

Macaroni and Four Cheeses (with hidden squash!)

Who doesn't love a delicious bowl of Macaroni and Cheese?  I really felt like some comfort food, but didn't really want to splurge, so I made Ellie Krieger's version.  She uses small amounts of full fat flavorful cheeses like extra-sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan.  She also adds winter squash for a health boost and bright orange color.

I was at the store a few weeks ago when I thought about this recipe and decided I wanted to make it in the near future.  I remembered it called for frozen squash.  So I bought a couple bags of frozen, cubed, butternut squash (locally grown even!)

Fast forward to this week.  I've got my pot of milk on the stove, and I'm pouring in the frozen cubes of squash.  I heat it over low heat so they thaw, then bring it almost to a simmer, just like she says.

I'm starting to get confused though - I'm not sure why she isn't telling me to mash the cubes somehow.  Did hers just melt into the milk all by themselves?  I spent several minutes pressing the soft cubes of squash against the sides of the pot to break them up, wondering all the while why she wasn't telling me to do so.  The idea is that the squash is supposed to be disguised in the know, so kids and picky grown-ups will eat it.  I didn't have a problem with chunks of squash, but I was pretty sure it was supposed to be smooth based on the picture in the book.

So I re-read the ingredient list.

Frozen pureed winter squash.  Ah-ha!  I literally laughed out loud when I read that ingredient.

I almost got out my immersion blender to remedy the situation, but I decided to leave them as is.  I didn't have to hide the vegetable from anyone, so it didn't matter if an occasional piece of squash was visible.

Anyway, we thought this meal really hit the spot.  You couldn't even tell there was a bunch of squash in it (except for a few tell-tale pieces that I didn't mash up!).  However, if you are only craving really creamy stove top macaroni and cheese, this dish probably won't do it for you.  It has a lot of good flavor, it's just not all that creamy.

But if you want a big helping of vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and manganese, this is a really delicious way to do it!

Macaroni and Four Cheeses
adapted from Ellie Krieger - The Food You Crave
Serves 8

Cooking spray
One 16-ounce box elbow macaroni
Two 10-ounce packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups lowfat milk (I used 2%)
1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I bought Tillamook Vintage White)
2/3 cup (2 ounces) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook the macaroni according to your package directions.  Drain, transfer to the baking dish.

While the pasta is cooking, add the milk and frozen squash to a large saucepan and heat over low, stirring every so often.  The squash should start defrosting and you should be able to gradually break it up with a spoon.  Turn the heat up to medium and let it heat up almost to a simmer, stirring a few times.  Remove from heat, add the cheddar, Jack, and ricotta cheeses, along with the salt, mustard, and cayenne.  Stir until it's pretty well combined, then pour this mixture over the pasta and stir it all together until things are evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and oil.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling around the edges, then broil for 3 minutes to brown and crisp the top.


  1. Wowzers. I'm going to have to be careful when I eat your yummy food. You might be sneaky like Jason and try to add secret ingredients to my food. Heehee!!! Darn me and my picky eating and you two being tricksters!!!

  2. I love doing that to Joe with ground flax seed. I stirred a little into some pesto the other day and didn't tell him until after he was done raving about how good it was. :-)


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