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Chipotle-Butternut Squash-Spinach Mac and Cheese

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This is not my picture, but it’s what my Mac and cheese most closely resembled

A couple years back I made an amazing vegan butternut-squash/Swiss chard soup based on a recipe by America’s Test Kitchen. (Don’t tell anyone, but I used kale as a substitute for the Swiss chard.) It was absolutely delicious. The reason? It was flavored with Chipotle. There wasn’t much, just enough to provide an unexpected savory counterpoint to the squash’s sweetness, but–wow–did it turn a potentially snoozeville soup into something special. I’ve never stopped thinking about that soup, and I wanted to incorporate the flavor combination into other dishes, starting with this week’s Meatless Monday meal. Thus,¬†Chipotle-Butternut Squash-Spinach Mac and Cheese was born.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. elbow macoroni, cooked al dente
  • 3 cups of a combination of your favorite shredded cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack, pepper jack, Gruyere, whatever floats your boat) I recommend at least a half cup be cubed processed cheese, and no I won’t be taking questions
  • 2-3 cups roasted, seasoned butternut squash, mashed slightly
  • 2-3 tsp. sauce from Chipotle can (throw in a minced pepper, if you can take the heat)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • A couple of cups of your favorite green (I used frozen, drained ¬†spinach, but fresh will work great, too)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs, tossed a bit of with melted butter

Directons:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir. To this add 1 teaspoon of table salt and a pinch of black pepper, plus the chipotle and thyme.
  3. Slowly stir in the milk, ’til the roux becomes smooth and thick. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the grated cheeses into the roux, til the mixture is very thick and creamy.
  5. Transfer macaroni to a baking dish; add the butternut squash and the greens. Stir in the cheese-chipotle sauce until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Top with the buttered breadcrumbs.
  7. Put in the middle oven rack and bake until the mixture is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are quite toasted–anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
  8. Let stand for 10 minutes after removing from oven.
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