Creamy Baked Penne with Butternut Squash...or...
Glorified Mac & Cheese. Whatever.
This is a delicious and not-so-heavy version of everyone's favourite comfort food. Well, actually....Mac & Cheese is totally not my comfort food. My mom never made it.
For me, comfort food is Gnocchi....ohhhhh man. Love it.
But, sometimes its fun to make Mac & Cheese because I like making béchamel. I wish I invented it...
Butter + Flour + Milk = super velvety creamy sauce that goes with everything.
The only booger (bugger, booger?) about it is that it needs so much attention. You need to whisk it constantly because milk has a tendency to burn easily due to it's high protein content.
I had my hubby whisk it for a while and apparently it makes him feel like Ina Garten...you know, the Barefoot Contessa? I think it was the combination of butter, oil and dairy that triggered that emotion. Had I been using heavy whipping cream, I would've practically become her.
Making Mac & Cheese is also a brilliant idea when you have a crap load of really great, really expensive 5-year-old Balderson cheddar in your fridge that you want to use before it starts growing stuff.
If you use really old, sharp cheddar, then you don't need to use as much because it packs so much flavour into so little space. If you use mild....you know...ahem cheaper....cheese, well you'll likely have to use a lot more to get the same flavour intensity.
Sautéing some onion and garlic in olive oil as a base for your roux will make your bechamel that much better! Creamy sauce also takes a lot of black pepper, so be liberal with it.
The addition of butternut squash in this dish is marvelous. I find squash goes well in creamy dishes...it adds a nice sweetness.
Oh and the ruby red tomatoes on top? They shrivel up, dehydrate and intensify! It's like tomato flavour times 10 and they become super sweet as pie.
Please, dig in and enjoy your Friday!