Meatless Monday: Roasted Squash Chili Mac

There are a million ways to make macaroni and cheese and many are meatless, like Rachael Ray's Roasted Squash Chili Mac.
By: Michelle Buffardi
Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Chili-anything is usually loaded with meat. Chili dogs, chili-cheese fries and the chili that comes with nachos at a restaurant -- always beefy. If you want to start a big fight, tell a chili enthusiast that vegetarian chili is legit. True chili traditionalists believe that chili is made with meat, or it's not chili at all.

Rachael Ray's Roasted Squash Chili Mac is an exception to the everything-chili-is-made-with-meat rule. It's made with roasted butternut squash and chili spices like chili powder, cumin and oregano, plus cinnamon and nutmeg which pair well with the squash. It's creamy and cheesy like mac and cheese should be, but there's nary a beef clump in sight.

Bonus: You can assemble the casserole ahead of time and bake it before you're ready to eat.

Serves: 6
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for the casserole dish

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced (or look for diced raw butternut squash in the produce department)

EVOO, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound rigatoni, penne or macaroni with ridges

2 tablespoons chili powder, such as Gebhardt's, or a blend of ancho or chipotle

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, made into a paste
1 fresh chile pepper, such as Fresno or jalapeno, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp yellow Cheddar
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
One 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded pepper jack or other hot-pepper melting cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly butter a casserole dish.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Toss to combine. Roast until the edges are browned, 17 to 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water to just shy of al dente, 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chili powder, oregano, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and chile pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, then whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add the Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until melted.

Combine the squash, chili-cheese sauce and beans, then transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with the pepper jack cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is browned, 15 to 20 minutes more.

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