It’s summer! Time for sprinklers, sun, and parks. It also means that my kids are home for lunch on a more regular basis, which means that I’m officially in charge of three meals a day. Sigh. I love my littles, don’t get me wrong, but coming up something healthy and different for them to eat each day is sometimes exhausting. One of my littles is a super picky eater. Her diet these days consists of dry cereal, protein bars, and macaroni and cheese. I’m lucky if I can sneak some veggies in there once in a while, which makes cooking stressful. Luckily I came across this awesome recipe a few summers ago that has become a staple around our house, and luckily it has some hidden veggies that are prime this summer. If you simply want to “adult” your macaroni so that it’s more palatable for the rest of the family, then I’ve got you covered there too! Macaroni is a super versatile dish that can please just about everyone. So whether you’re trying to hide some veggies or simply make it more palatable for the adults in the room, mac and cheese is the dish to make this summer!
Recipe 01: Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
The squash here makes the macaroni extra creamy and flavorful. It’s got a good pack of vitamins and minerals and sneaks some veggies into an otherwise carb-loaded dish.
- 1/2 peeled, seeded, and chopped butternut squash (medium size)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
- 2 1/12 c. milk, divided
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary
- 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
- 3/4 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
- 1 c. shredded white cheddar
Begin by roasting your squash. First, heat your oven to 400F and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper. Next, place the chopped squash on the baking sheet and liberally drizzle olive oil over the top, making sure that you coat evenly before sprinklings with salt and pepper. Then place the squash in the oven and roast for about 25 minutes, making sure to rotate the squash about halfway through.
While the squash is roasting, go ahead and make your noodles according to the package directions for al dente, then set aside. When the squash is nice and tender, remove from the oven and put in a food processor so that you can puree into a smooth sauce. Add 1/2 c. of milk and puree a little more, this helps everything to get perfectly smooth.
Then you’re going to make a rue. Begin by melting your butter in a skillet over medium heat, then whisking in your flour. Continue to whisk, adding the nutmeg, for about 2 minutes before slowly whisking in the remaining milk. When the mixture is smooth and combined, turn the heat up to high and allow it to come to a boil while you continue to whisk, this will help the mixture thicken. After the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and slowly stir in the butternut squash puree. Then add in your fresh rosemary and add the cooked macaroni, stirring until well coated.
Lastly, grease a casserole dish (like this one) and pour half of the noodles into the bottom. Next, sprinkle half the sharp and half the white cheddar over the top, before laying more noodles. To finish, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the noodles and top with breadcrumbs. Toss the whole thing into the oven for about 25 minutes. It’s done when it’s golden and bubbling. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe 02: Bacon Mac and Cheese
Okay, this recipe is labor intensive, but 1000000% worth it. It’s creamy, flavorful, and perfect.
- 1/2 lb. cavatappi pasta
- 3 c. half and half
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6-8 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon
- 3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
Begin by heating your oven to 400F and lining a baking sheet with foil. Then place the bacon, about an inch apart, on the baking sheet. Pop them in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes so that your bacon is nice and crispy. Don’t overbake it or it will burn when you put it back in the oven.
Second, prepare your pasta according to the package directions for al dente pasta. Drain the pasta and reserve a cup of water in case you need it later to thin your sauce. Next, melt the butter in your skillet over medium heat before whisking in flour for about a minute or two. Then whisk in the half and half a little at a time. You should have a smooth mixture at this point. Next, whisk in your seasonings: rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, and minced garlic. Continue whisking the mixture while turning the heat up to medium-high so that the sauce comes to a simmer. When the sauce is thick enough for you, remove it from the stove and stir in the Parmesan and cheddar cheese until it’s smooth and creamy.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and stir gently until everything is well coated. If the cheese sauce is too thick, you can thin it with leftover pasta water. Last, fold in the basil and green onion before moving the pasta to a greased casserole dish. Pour about half of the pasta into the dish, then top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Then pour remaining pasta over the top and top with remaining cheese. Before baking, give it all a good stir to make sure it’s mixed. Lastly, top with crumbled bacon and bread crumbs before baking for 25-30 minutes, or until the mac and cheese is golden and bubbly. Allow the dish to cool slightly before eating.
And there you have it! Two ways to up your mac and cheese game this season. Happy eating!