It’s summer and since my children finally have more free time I’m taking advantage to include them in in meal planning and cooking. If you ask them what they would like for dinner, the answer will most likely be pasta and more specifically mac and cheese. My son decided that he wanted to prepare dinner and he wanted to choose a recipe from one of his cookbooks. He chose a mac and cheese recipe from his recent favorite cookbook “The Chew, A Year of Celebrations” (Disney Enterprises Inc, 2014) but I quickly noticed that the recipe required some tweaking. This is our modified version of the book’s mac and cheese recipe. Another great dish to take advantage of the abundance of kale in the garden.
And so dinner became a family affair. My son chopped onions, garlic and parsley and measured ingredients, my daughter grated the cheese, I cooked the bacon (that stuff really splatters!) and diced the squash. There are so many tasks during meal preparation that can be delegated to the kids and I really encourage everyone to get their children involved in the process. Dinner is ready in no time and it gives them a sense of satisfaction at having been involved in getting dinner on the table.
You might consider this dish more as a cold weather recipe but we actually ate it outdoors in 30°C weather. Nothing will stop us from eating our mac and cheese! The original recipe states that it serves 8 to 10 people. Yeah right! 8 to 10 people or 4 for our family! We had the pasta as our main dish so in our case it’s more like 4-6 servings as a main course or 6-8 as a first course dish. Adding squash, kale (from the garden, of course) and bacon are a wonderful way of jazzing up your regular mac and cheese. This is another keeper folks!
Butternut Squash, Kale and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Adapted from “The Chew, A Year of Celebrations” (Disney Enterprises Inc, 2014)
Makes 6 main dish servings
- 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 500 grams rigatoni
- 1 –375 gram package of bacon, diced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cups kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the diced squash on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Add olive oil and salt and toss. Bake for 25 minutes until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add salt and cook the rigatoni 3 minutes less than the package suggests. Drain and set aside.
In a large pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan, add the butter and onions and cook until translucent. Add the kale and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until the kale has wilted. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook for 2 more minutes and then slowly pour in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until it has thickened. Add 1 cup of the Gruyère and the nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in the mascarpone until combined. Add the rigatoni, the butternut squash and the bacon. Add salt and pepper, to taste, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the pasta mixture in a greased 14×11 inch baking dish. Top with the remaining Gruyère and the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes until the pasta is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.