Oct 29, 2020

Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese

Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, has a flavor similar to sweet potatoes and a creamy, velvety texture when it’s roasted.

The base of this mac and cheese is a mornay sauce made from butter, flour, whole milk and nutty gruyere cheese flavored with a bit of chopped fresh rosemary. The roasted deep reddish-orange flesh is sweet and is the perfect contrast to salty and nutty gruyere cheese.I roast additional squash to pile the mac and cheese into for a fun seasonal serving dish.

Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Kabocha squash – Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, has a flavor similar to sweet potatoes and a creamy, velvety texture when it’s roasted. The flesh of kabocha squash is extremely sweet. This squash is available all year round though it can be most easily found during fall, it’s peak season.
  • Bechamel sauce – Bechamel sauce is made from a roux base. Flour is cooked in butter to reduce the flavor of the flour in the sauce. It’s then simmered with whole milk to make a thick, creamy sauce. Once the gruyere cheese is added it becomes a mornay sauce. Once its blended with the squash it will become the base of the mac and cheese.
  • Gruyère – Gruyère is a hard cheese with a nutty, sweet flavor from Switzerland. The fact that it melts well (due to a high water to oil ratio) mixed with it’s distinct flavor makes it the perfect addition to anything from sandwiches to mac and cheese or fondue. If you can’t find Gruyère, I recommend substituting with another Swiss cheese like Emmental.
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How to Make Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese

  1. Heat oven. Heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Roast squash. Using a sharp chef knife or serrated knife at a 45º angle to cut out the top of the squash. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and discard. Rub the inside of the squash and top of the lid with the stem with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is soft, about 35 minutes.
  3. Scoop out the inside flesh. Let the squash cool to the touch then use a spoon to scrape the flesh from the inside until you have 1 cup of squash and set aside.
  4. Make the bechamel. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Add the rosemary stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until pale golden brown then whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cheese and blend. Slowly add 1½ cups of the gruyere stirring until all the cheese has been completely incorporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add the mixture and the squash to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the pot.
  6. Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour the squash and cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring to combine.
  7. Assemble and broil. Heat broiler on high. Arrange the roasted squash bowls on a baking sheet. Divide the pasta among the roasted squash serving bowls and top with the remaining gruyere. Broil until the cheese is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
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Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • Substitute the kabocha squash with butternut or honeynut squash. This can also be made with pie pumpkins.
  • The squash and cheese sauce can be made ahead of time. Reheat it and toss with the cooked pasta prior to serving so the sauce doesn’t coagulate.
  • You can forgo the squash bowls in favor of a more traditional baking dish, I find this way more aesthetically pleasing and unique.
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Other Recipes to Try

Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium kabocha squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • cups shredded Gruyere divided
  • ¾ pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 400ºF.
  • Using a sharp chef knife or serrated knife at a 45º angle to cut out the top of the squash. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and discard. Rub the inside of the squash and top of the lid with the stem with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is soft, about 35 minutes.
  • Let the squash cool to the touch then use a spoon to scrape the flesh from the inside until you have 1 cup of squash and set aside.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Add the rosemary stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until pale golden brown then whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
  • Slowly add 1½ cups of the gruyere stirring until all the cheese has been completely incorporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add the mixture and the squash to a blender and blend until smooth. Return to the pot.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour the squash and cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring to combine.
  • Heat broiler on high. Arrange the roasted squash bowls on a baking sheet. Divide the pasta among the roasted squash serving bowls and top with the remaining gruyere. Broil until the cheese is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

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