Mac & cheese is, to me, the ultimate comfort food. And can you believe it wasn’t until after I left home that I learned it didn’t have to come from a blue box (no offense, Mom)?! One of my go-to veg blogs has done it again, this time adding a slew of vegetables (in clever ways) and fancy cheeses to make a lovely mac & cheese with a crunchy top (this is key, in my opinion). The original recipe below is from Heidi, the notes in caps are my own variation.
Broccoli Basil Mac & Cheese
1 small butternut, acorn, or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into tiny chunks (SL: I USED 1 C. BRUSSELS SPROUTS, HALVED, & 2 C. QUARTERED MUSHROOMS)
1 bunch of basil, stems removed
2 slices good brown bread, stale or dried out in the oven (SL: CRUSHED BAGEL CHIPS, ABOUT 1 C.)
1/2 a small head of broccoli (100 g / 3.5 oz), roughly chopped
4 tbsp. creme fraiche or sour cream (SL: 4 TBSP. WHOLE MILK)
1 3/4 c. grated white cheddar cheese (SL: HAVARTI CHEESE)
1 3/4 c. grated gruyere cheese (SL: GOUDA)
a large handful of cherry tomatoes
3 c. / 300 g dried macaroni
SL: GRATED PARMESAN FOR TOPPING
Preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Place squash (BRUSSELS SPROUTS) on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
In the meantime, pulse half the basil, all of the bread (CRUSHED BAGEL CHIPS), the broccoli and a lug of olive oil in a food processor until you’ve got a fine crumb. It’ll be a bit damp – that’s o.k. Transfer to a small bowl and give the processor a rinse.
In a separate bowl, combine the creme fraiche (WHOLE MILK) and grated cheeses (ALL BUT PARMESAN).
Place the cherry tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining basil. Pulse a couple times to break things up, then add to the cheese mixture and stir well.
Boil the pasta in well-salted water for a bit less time than the package suggests – you want it ever so slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving a big cup of the hot pasta water for later use. Return the hot pasta to the pan and add the cheese mixture to it. Add the squash (BRUSSELS & QUARTERED MUSHROOMS) and give it a good stir. Add pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency of cream. It can be a bit runny as the pasta will soak it up in the oven.
Transfer everything to a large baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs evenly across the top, ADD A LAYER OF GRATED PARMESAN and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until the topping is crunchy. Remove from the oven, and wait 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8 – 10.