When asking what recipes you would like to see me create, Mac and Cheese is without fail, always the most requested so I thought it was about time I got around to creating a healthier version of it.
Now I must admit, it’s not a dish I’ve ever really ordered when eating out, generally as most of the time it’s vegetarian and high in calories, so I’ve always steered clear. That said I have had the cheeky mouthful when others have ordered it and most of the time you can tell that the oozy goodness comes from LOADS of cheese and butter.
When trying to think of a way to recreate the creamy, smoothness of a mac and cheese dish, I knew I had to find an ingredient that would bulk out the sauce but keep the points low and once again it was Butternut Squash to the rescue! The addition of it here does exactly that, creates a lovely base of the cheese sauce, adds a little sweetness and balances out the rest of the dish quite nicely. I’ve also added bacon to the dish for an extra layer of flavour and it’s worth doing, the saltiness contrasts very well with the sweet butternut squash and creamy cheesy additions!
Mac and Cheese
Serves 4 – 11sp per person (Flex)
4 x bacon medallions, raw
1 medium sized Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (500g)
300ml chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube)
250ml skimmed milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
60g light cream cheese
100g light extra mature cheddar (I got mine from Asda), grated
Grating of nutmeg
Pinch of smoked paprika (and crushed chillies if you would like a little heat)
Salt and pepper
15g panko breadcrumbs
Two large handfuls of kale, roughly chopped
240g macaroni, dried
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Take a large pan, add the butternut squash, chicken stock, milk, whole garlic cloves and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 25 minutes until the butternut squash is nice and soft.
Whilst the butternut squash is cooking fry the bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Once cooked, remove from the pan and chop into medium sized ‘crumbs’. Pop in a bowl to one side.
Once the butternut squash blend is soft, remove the bay leaf and then pop everything else into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the light cream cheese and blend again. Add half the grated cheese, stir through so it melts and then add the smoked paprika. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir and taste adding a little more seasoning if needed.
In a separate pan cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions. A few minutes before it’s cooked add the kale to the same pan. Drain and then add back to the pasta pan. Pour over the butternut squash/cheese mix and add two thirds of the bacon. Stir everything together so it’s nice and silky. If the mixture is still a bit lose, keep on a high heat for a few minutes so everything thickens up.
Next, pour the mixture into a baking dish, top with the rest of the bacon and grated cheese and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Finish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and twist of salt and pepper and then pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the breadcrumbs are nice and golden.
Remove from the oven and serve with a nice green salad finished with a squeeze of lemon.