My husband has been gone for a weeklong work trip, which means a couple of things: 1. There is no one to complain that the thermostat is set to a temperature that would give any dude full-blown man sweats (I’m looking at you, 76). 2. Our fridge is filled with foods that he doesn’t eat.
Now, normally if my husband is away for a day or two, I’m the typical pizza or Panera mom to avoid a messy kitchen, but since this trip has him gone for 7 FULL NIGHTS (if you are reading this, send wine), pulling off dinner out for a week straight with three children in tow actually seems like the harder play.
I can name exactly two meals on the planet that my husband doesn’t eat: lentil soup (because man farts) and macaroni and cheese. The latter is shocking to me as someone who thought that a love for cheesy, carb-loaded meals was built into every human’s DNA. But he doesn’t get the appeal. So that’s what’s on rotation this week for us, and guess what? No one is complaining.
This version of mac and cheese cooks in one pot on the stovetop (read: fewer messy dishes) and the longest step is waiting for the water to boil. It’s also loaded with three types of cheese and squash (you didn’t think I’d leave out a veggie, did you?) which is virtually tasteless and mimics that neon orange color that kids love from the boxed stuff.
The only labor-intensive step in this recipe is shredding cheese directly from a block rather than buying it preshredded. I’d encourage you not to take the pre-shredded shortcut since bagged cheese contains additives that will result in a chalky consistency. Shred the cheese while the pasta water boils—you won’t regret it!
Hidden Veggie Stovetop Mac and Cheese
makes 8 servings
1 pound box elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups frozen cooked winter squash (I buy the Birds Eye brand), defrosted *
4 ounce block extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounce block swiss cheese, shredded
4 ounce block parmesan cheese, shredded
In a large saucepan, bring water to a rapid boil. Add a heaping teaspoon of salt then stir in elbow pasta and cook until al-dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Place the same saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter in the pot, add flour, and whisk for 3-5 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste. Slowly stream in milk and whisk until milk mixture is thick and warm, about 5-8 minutes more. Stir in cooked squash and mix until combined.
Remove pot from the stove and stir in cheeses. Add salt to taste. Return pasta to the pot and toss to coat. Serve warm.
*I buy frozen precooked, pureed squash to save on time, but if you can only find frozen squash chunks, you could defrost them and use a blender to puree them with the milk before adding the milk to the butter-flour mixture