MACARONI BAKED WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH
by Elaine Magee MPH, RD
For 8 to 12 servings, just double the ingredients and use a 13" x 9" baking dish.
Two kinds of squash, butternut and acorn, provide an assortment of carotenes and vitamins, many of which offer synergy together. Each serving also contributes some low-fat dairy and about 2 whole grain servings.Makes 6 servings
• 1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded, or 1 pound frozen butternut cubes
• 1 medium acorn squash (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Salt (optional)
• 1 cup fat-free half-and-half or whole milk
• Freshly ground nutmeg
• 8 cups cooked whole grain-blend macaroni or penne pasta
• 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
• 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
• 2 tablespoons whipped butter
• 1/4 cup plain or seasoned dry bread crumbs
• 1/4 cup ground gingersnap cookies
Place the butternut squash halves cut-side down on a microwaveable baking dish or plate and microwave on high power for 8 minutes, or until tender. If using frozen squash, place in a microwaveable dish and microwave for 4 minutes, or until tender. Then place the acorn squash cut-side down on a microwaveable baking dish or plate and microwave for 8 minutes, or until tender.
Preheat the oven broiler. Coat a foil-lined jelly-roll pan and a 9" x 9" baking dish with canola-oil cooking spray.
Cut the squash flesh into cubes, discarding the skins. Add the cubes to a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Spread on the prepared jelly-roll pan, season with the pepper and salt (if desired) to taste, and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned in some areas. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
In a food processor, combine the squash and half-and-half or milk and process until smooth. Add the nutmeg and pulse briefly to blend well. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the pasta and Parmesan. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Dot with the ricotta.
Add the butter to a small nonstick saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until nicely brown (it will smell like caramel). Add the bread crumbs and cookies and stir to combine. Sprinkle evenly over the pasta mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through.