Butternut mac and ‘cheese’ with a buttery sage and oat crust
I did a little poll on Facebook the other day into what peoples comfort foods were.Mac and cheese kept getting mentioned and so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Ill fess up now, that I have never eaten mac and cheese and that is for one simple reason. I really really don’t like melted cheese. I dont even like the smell of melted cheese and this is a real problem come lunch time in Central London. Most lunch places are rammed with folks ordering sandwiches and many of these sandwiches contain cheese (it is England after all) and lots of said sandwiches need toasting. This means that the entire place smells of slightly charred cheese. Even my beloved Fernandez and Wells isnt immune to it and whilst I am sure that they are carefully toasting a homemade sourdough with locally churned white cheddar and a cheeky pickle…I still cannot enter the smokey premises during the noon hours. It is only once the afternoon settles in and the tea pots are put to use, and the world starts thinking of cake that I can go and get my lunch.
That said I wanted to make mac and cheese but I wanted to try the ever popular butternut squash version.The logic is that you can either half the cheese in your normal recipe by adding butternut squash or you can swap it out totally. In normal mac and cheese there is a whole heap of cheese as well as butter, flour and milk or cream forming the basis of the white sauce. When you use butternut puree you do away with the need for a white sauce as it is naturally thick and clings lusciously to the pasta. I used nutritional yeast as we had some in the cupboard and I had always been a little apprehensive about trying it.
Even though it looks (and smells) a little like goldfish food, it is in fact a total powerhouse of nutrients. For anyone on a plant based diet it contains the magic Vitamin B12. It also, when used in cooking tastes remarkably like parmesan. If you want to add cheese, go ahead, try ricotta, feta or a tangy cheddar.
The topping here is toasted buttery oats flavoured with sage. They add texture, bite and a salty richness to the dish. This version is perfect comfort food. Creamy, rich and comforting but with a little hit of autumn vegetables. It is a great family friendly recipe too – the baby loves it!
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (or 6 tbsp grated cheese)
0.5 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp ground nutmeg
200ml oat or other milk
300g dried macaroni
2 tbsp chopped sage leaves
1 tbsp butter or butter alternative
Preheat your oven to 180C
Rub the butternut squash with oil, salt and pepper
Place into a baking dish with the garlic and roast until tender
Whilst the squash is roasting, cook the pasta according to the packet until it has a firm bite
Once cooked, drain and set aside
Place the roasted butternut squash, milk, nutmeg, nutritional yeast, and paprika into a blender and process until totally smooth
Combine with the pasta
Pour the mixture into a baking dish
In a frying pan place the oats, butter and sage and allow to ‘fry’ until golden and crispy
Top the pasta with the oats and bake for a further 15mins
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