My kids love the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese from Trader Joe’s. (It sells out daily- so they are clearly not alone!) This vegetarian comfort food dish seemed reminiscent enough to be a crowd-pleaser. 😉 I liked that it incorporated leafy greens too.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I modified the method and proportions. I also added a poblano chile, red onion, garlic, and cilantro. Nice.
Yield: Serves 6
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1 poblano chile, seeded, ribbed, and diced, divided (or 1 jalapeño, sliced into rounds)
- 6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeds removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or other tubular pasta
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano), divided
- 4 packed cups greens (I used 2 cups turnip greens (sliced into 1-inch ribbons) and 2 cups baby spinach)
- 8 oz (1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size chunks
- 1/3 cup cilantro or flat-leaf parsley and tender stems, roughly chopped, for garnish
- Bring a large covered pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente, 3 to 4 minutes less than the package instructions. (It should be a little too firm to the bite.) Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with high sides and a tight-fitting lid (or a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pan.)
- Add the diced onion and half of the diced poblano chile, season with salt, and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Add the sliced garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the cubed squash and season with salt, cumin, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring every minute, until squash becomes browned in spots and feels just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
- When the squash is just tender, add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Bring to an active simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is soft and easily mashable, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, then use the back of a wooden spoon to crush about half of the butternut squash and leave the rest chunky. Season the squash to taste, keeping in mind that salty Parmesan will be added soon.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the remaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Stir vigorously to combine.
- Stir in the greens one handful at a time until each addition wilts slightly.
- Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, the mozzarella, and the remaining diced poblano chile. Place in the oven and cook until the top is melted and browned in spots, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Top with minced cilantro and serve.