What gives this macaroni and cheese this beautiful color and creamy texture? Not cheddar. The squash gives the dish texture, intensity, and touch of sweet.
The smallest dollop of mascarpone cheese, just enough for a spoonful per person, lends a buttery finish. It's also shamefully healthy. Don't be afraid to lick the bowl. Still not sold? Your kids will think it came from a box.
Penne Pasta with Kabocha Squash and Mascarpone Cheese
2 cups of dry, shaped noodles (see Note* for gluten-free directions)
1/2 kabocha squash, seeds removed, skin on
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. ground black pepper plus extra for garnish
1 t. ground sea salt plus extra for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and salt, and cover for 8 to 10 minutes, until just al dente. Allow to sit for a minute, then drain.
2. Seed the kabocha and cut the kabocha squash into 1/2" slices. Put the slices into a pot or microwave-safe steam container. Carefully pour a cup of the hot pasta water over half the squash. Cover and steam in the pot or microwave for 6 to 8 minutes until soft.
3. Add the steamed squash, rind and all, to a blender with the mascarpone cheese. Add the ground black pepper and cayenne. Pulse until smooth.
4. Scoop the squash and cheese sauce into a large bowl. Drain and shake the noodles, without rinsing, and add to the sauce. Toss, and serve with a little ground pepper and salt. T
To serve bistro-style, spoon 4 equal portions into ramekins, cover with a grated hard cheese, and broil on high until brown. Fold four dinner napkins in quarters, and place atop dinner plates. Place the hot ramekins on the napkin-covered plates and serve.
*Note: I used Trader Joe's corn penne noodles to make a completely gluten-free version. This noodle is inexpensive and works for me. (They don't endorse me.) Boil the noodles until very tender, for 12 minutes total, if serving with gluten free noodles.
however, I recommend using the quinoa macaroni noodles for a true "box-macaroni" texture and flavor experience if serving to your gluten-free kids.