So I actually made this a year ago and didn't manage to post it before it was way past butternut squash season, doh! I figured I would just hold off and post about it the next Fall, which is what I am doing now. The problem is, my photography has improved leaps and bounds since then so these photos look really awful. I am so sorry in advance, but the mac and cheese is really good. I promise.
I saw this recipe on an episode of The Chew, and the idea was that it was orange and black for Halloween. Orange from the squash, black from the kale. Except that kale is green, even when it's wilted... Whatever - it uses Fall produce and it's delicious, so let's pretend it works.
Cook up some bacon (I used pancetta because stuff and things), add some butter, sweat some onions and garlic, wilt some kale - awesome. So here's where the original recipe gets weird (The Chew website is notoriously bad at reviewing their recipes) - it says to have 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced, and to saute the squash in the pan. Then later it says to add in the butternut squash puree. What butternut squash puree? There is no butternut squash puree in the ingredient list. Huh? Also - sauteed squash? Meh. So here's what I did (as you can see in the previous picture) - tossed that cubed squash with olive, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; then roasted it. Yummy. Then I took half the roasted squash and mashed it. Ah-ha! Now there is butternut squash puree, sort of.
Anyway, add the roasted squash cubes to the wilted kale mixture, then sprinkle flour over everything and cook for a bit to make a veggie/roux combo. Then pour in some milk and half and half and bring to a simmer. Add in the mashed squash, and cook until the mixture thickens like a bechamel. Then add in some cheese - Gruyere, cuz we're fancy. There is another recipe goof here - they say to add only some of the cheese, but never say what to do with the rest of it. I guessed sprinkle on top. Did you think we were done? Nope - we are also going to add in some Mascarpone cheese. Hello, creamy decadence!
Season that bad boy up (you can use the suggested chipotle powder, I didn't) and add in some pasta. They used rigatoni, I used shells, you can use whatever you want.
Yet another weird part of the recipe - they just put some plain breadcrumbs on top and broil them to brown, then serve. I can't remember if that's what I did or not (kind of looks like it), but I would change that up by sprinkling it with Parmesan and butter coated bread crumbs, then baking until it is all bubbly and brown on top.
Butternut Squash and Kale Mac and Cheese
adapted from The Chew
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 lb short pasta
1 lb bacon or pancetta or guanciale, diced
3 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale, de-ribbed and chopped
3 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
1/3 cup half and half
1 1/2 tbsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 1/2 cups Gruyere, shredded
1/2 cup Mascarpone
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the squash with the olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast for 30 min, stirring once in the middle, or until the squash is tender. Reduce the temp to 350 deg F. Separate half the squash and mash, set aside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente (1-2 minutes less than time on box). Drain, rinse with cold water, then set aside.
In a large saute pan, cook bacon until crisp. Add the butter to the bacon fat, then sweat the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then add the kale and stir to wilt. Add the cubes of squash and sprinkle the flour over the mixture to make a roux. Slowly pour in the milk and half and half while mixing, and bring mixture to simmer. Stir in the mashed butternut squash. Cook gently until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Add in 1 cup of the Gruyere and grate in the nutmeg; constantly stir until all of the cheese is melted. Add the mascarpone and mix until melted and combined. Stir in the chipotle (if using) and add the cooked pasta; toss until it is well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper (easy on the pepper if you used chipotle).
Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere on top, followed by the Parmesan. Combine the breadcrumbs and melted butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake in the oven until bubbling and golden on top, 20-40 minutes.