In my perfect world, it would be fall all the time.
I didn’t know that about myself until I moved to the Philippines. I’ve always been a beach girl, aka Minnesota wannabe beach girl. But sometime in the last 6 weeks my body started rejecting anything resembling hot summer weather and craving anything in the range of 45-65 degrees.
Bev pretty much brought me to tears with this ode to fall: “Cooler temperatures… football season… the sounds of ‘aaaahhhh’ in the background as I noodle around in the kitchen over a pot of soup or something with the air conditioning off and the back door open.” That was before her lentil and zucchini tacos with chipotle cream sauce actually did bring me to tears. I’m a hungry, emotional person right now.
And I want to noodle around with the back door open.
I read that to Bjork (because yes, we sit around and read blogs outloud to each other – is that normal?) and we both started laughing like psychos. Weeeeee are going to go crazy without a Minnesota fall.
The fact that I’m this worked up and it’s not even fall yet scares me a little bit. If you love me, you’ll protect me from your pictures of the blanketed hayride through the apple orchard with a bowl of chili and cornbread and a mug of hot chocolate. Block me or something. I’m warning you now.
Fun fact: I sweated through 84 T-shirts to make this white cheddar mac n cheese happen.
In return, this bowl of delicate, squashy, saucy, whole wheat rigatoni topped with more white cheddar and toasted walnuts straight up walked me into the air conditioning, sat me down on the couch, put a fork in my hand, planted a kiss on my cheek, and gave me every fall flavor I had been dreaming of.
By the way, how beautiful is air conditioning?
Please tell me you have white cheddar cheese and a squash handy. Cause it’s time to make this happen.
This white cheddar mac n’ cheese is made healthier with the addition of creamy squash and toasted walnuts. Perfect fall pasta dish!
- 1 large kabocha squash (butternut would be good too!)
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts + extra for topping
- 1 lb. whole wheat rotini (or elbow macaroni for more traditional mac n’ cheese)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1–2 tablespoons butter
- 3 ounces light cream cheese
- 1–2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- Cook the squash. Here’s how I did it: Slice up the squash into large pieces and place flesh side down in a large baking or roasting pan (you can really use anything – I used an aluminum cake pan – I don’t have much to work with here in the Philippines). Fill the pan with water so it’s a few inches deep – enough to touch the squash but not cover it completely. Wrap the whole thing with tinfoil and bake at 350 degrees until fork-tender, about an hour. Remove squash from pan and set aside to cool slightly. If you didn’t already toast your walnuts, just stick them on a pan and place in the oven for a few minutes.
- Scrape the flesh out and puree it flesh in a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup milk to help the mixture puree more smoothly, if necessary. If it’s still too sticky, add a little water. Add the walnuts and puree until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Cook pasta according to directions. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions – saute for several minutes until onions are golden and translucent. Stir in the squash puree and add the cream cheese. Stir until melted.
- Combine the pasta with the squash sauce, adding vegetable broth as needed to get the right consistency for your sauce. For the white cheddar – stir it in so it melts, or if you prefer, divide it evenly among the bowls and sprinkle on top before serving. Or both.
I sprinkled each bowl with some extra toasted walnuts.
The squash puree was SO GOOD, but it took a long time. For a shortcut, you can buy canned or frozen pureed squash. You’ll need enough to make about 5 cups of the puree mixture. I can usually find some at my regular grocery store at home with the canned vegetables.
One more thing: I like you.