I have a confession to make. Last Wednesday I had some leftover pancetta pieces and I added them to a perfectly good meatless recipe. It worked out really well, but I felt incredibly guilty as I am always looking for good meatless recipes to share. I debated fibbing just a little and not telling you this, but you can clearly see those guilty chunks of pancetta in the casserole above. It really didn’t need them though, and this is such a perfect vegetarian recipe (without the pancetta) I wanted to be sure to highlight it. Seriously, this mac and cheese is good - with or without the pancetta. I suppose you could use ‘vegetarian bacon’ if you wanted to get the salty sweet flavour the pancetta added to the recipe, but honestly, it would be perfectly delicious without any kind of meatiness. The butternut squash lends a really subtle sweetness, along with lots of extra vitamins.
My second confession, I did not develop this recipe entirely by myself. It is from the current edition of the wonderful BBC Good Food Magazine. I’ve made a couple small changes to the recipe, including using slightly less milk and cheese, but the main idea is theirs. I had planned to link to the recipe on their website, but it isn’t there yet, so I am going to share it here and hope the lovely folks at BBC Good Food do not mind. Either way, you really need to visit their excellent website - it’s got thousands of fantastic recipes (including a great selection of vegetarian ideas), and you can even make your own virtual binder to save the ones you want to try.
Butternut Macaroni Cheese
adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine November 2011
Serves 4 generously
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
11 ounces macaroni
2 ounces butter (I used ¼ cup)
2 ounces plain flour (I used ¼ cup)
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups milk (you may need slightly more or less)
1 cup grated vegetarian cheddar
¼ cup grated vegetarian Parmesan style cheese
Heat the oven to 400℉ (200℃ or 180℃ for a fan oven).
Place the squash on a baking sheet and toss in the oil. Add some salt and pepper if you like (I left it plain). Roast for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the milk and simmer until it thickens to a smooth sauce, stirring constantly.
Take the sauce off the heat and mash in a third of the squash with the cheddar and half the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the drained macaroni and the remaining chunks of squash.
Place into an ovenproof dish, scatter with the remaining Parmesan and bake for 15 minutes until golden and bubbling.
(NB: If you are not making this on Meatless Monday and you want to add the pancetta or if you are using a vegetarian bacon replacement, simply pan fry it while you are making the roux, and add it to the casserole before baking.)