You like mac and cheese, right?
Of course you do. What an absurd question for me to ask. And if you somehow don’t enjoy starchy pasta drenched in cheese, then don’t walk away just yet. We might still be able to make our friendship work. You see, this Chili Mac & Cheese w/ Roasted Squash & Beans is unlike any mac & cheese you have ever experienced before. It’s going to alter everything you know about mac & cheese, but in a very good way.
First, we’ve got sharp cheddar and tangy parmesan cheese in a creamy sauce. That’s where traditional stops and zesty takes over. The sauce is laced with some seriously kickin’ spices, like in your favorite tacos or chili. All of a sudden, we go from ho-hum cheese sauce to holy-crap, this is one cheesy fiesta!
You see, this ain’t no side dish; it’s a full balanced meal. We invited beans to this flavor party, not only making the dish heartier, but amping up the mac with protein. Then, guess what? We’re oven-roasting butternut squash to bring out its sweetness and inviting it to the party too. So, you’re getting vitamins from that nutritious but delicious squash, plus tons of protein from both the pasta and the beans. The amount of benefits in this comforting mac and cheese makes you feel less guilty about eating it. Yes, you’re indulging in cheese-covered pasta, but you’re also consuming a well-rounded meal with a lot of nutrition. Let’s not forget that it’s also super hearty and satisfying. There is no other mac on the planet that will fill you up this well.
Of course, we have to crown this pasta with a final blanket of cheese, pepper jack to be exact. It’s that one final kick to really crank up the spice factor. So let’s review: an abundant amount of creamy, cheesy sauce full of zesty flavors, sweet roasted butternut squash, tender beans, and a layer of melty pepper jack cheese. Somebody call the fire department; this mac is on fire!
Forget boring mac and cheese and try this 3-cheese, kicked up, bulked up version instead.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- This is a great meal for the winter. It’s hearty and comforting.
- Don’t like squash? Go for sweet potatoes instead!
- I love kidney beans, but you could use any kind in this.
- Always go for sharp cheddar as opposed to mild. It’s got much better flavor.
- I am a huge supporter of whole-grain/whole-wheat pasta. It’s got a great al dente bite naturally, plus so many health benefits!
- Make sure your pasta still has a bit of bite to it. If you over-boil it, it’ll be totally soggy by the time it’s baked.
- You can forgo the pepper jack for monterey jack instead.
Chili Mac & Cheese w/ Roasted Squash & Beans
Adapted from Rachael Ray of Food Network
- 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)
- olive oil, for drizzling
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound whole grain rigatoni or penne
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- One 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly butter a casserole dish.
- Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. 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 in a large pot. Add the chili powder, oregano, cayenne, cumin, and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk until lump-free. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the Cheddar and Parmesan and whisk until melted.
- Add the pasta, squash, and beans to the pot with the sauce and stir until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with the pepper jack cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is browned and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes more.