Meatless Monday: Macaroni and Four Cheeses

Make a big batch of mac and cheese (made with four kinds of cheese plus pureed squash) for Meatless Monday and bring the leftovers for lunch.
By: Michelle Buffardi

There's no way I'd be caught making a recipe that requires more than 10 minutes of prep time on a weeknight. When I get home from work, I eat really simple things like leftovers from the weekend, or easy-to-throw-together soups, salads and omelets.

But weekends are a different story. I like to cook up a storm on the weekends, eating and serving all kinds of fancy stuff on Saturdays and Sundays, usually big-batch recipes like casseroles and soups that I can refrigerate or freeze for busier days. Last night I made Ellie Krieger's Macaroni and Four Cheeses (cheddar, jack, ricotta and Parmesan), which doesn't actually take that long to make (43 minutes from start to finish) but it makes for good leftovers to take to lunch. It's made with pureed butternut squash (use frozen or if you happen to have leftover roasted butternut, mash that up and put that in there) so you can feel good about getting a serving of vegetables with your mac and cheese -- and it won't taste all squashy, I swear -- it's creamy and cheesy with a crunchy top, just the way mac and cheese should be. The recipe calls for elbow macaroni; I like to use whole wheat elbows or small shells, but you can use whichever you prefer.

Serves: 8
Cooking spray
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

“More consumers in 2012 will become ‘Flexitarians,’ those that consciously reduce their meat intake for health reasons but still occasionally enjoy animal protein. One of the best evidences of this trend is the growing popularity and social media following of the nonprofit Meatless Monday initiative, developed in association with John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.”

-The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, according to a study done by  The Values Institute at DGWB

Do you identify yourself by your diet? Are you a flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, carnivore . . . or do you prefer not to title your diet?
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