Macaroni and cheese is perhaps the ultimate comfort food and because making it involves more of a method rather than an exact recipe, I’m always on the quest to find new versions of this oh-so-satisfying meal. I am just as likely to serve macaroni and cheese at a formal, sit down dinner for guests as I am for casual dinners for my own family. And I have yet to meet someone who isn’t a fan. So you can imagine how excited I was when I came across an entire new cookbook dedicated to nothing but macaroni and cheese. From classic renditions to new twists on an old favorite, Melt: The Art of Macaroni & Cheese has it all. There are so many options here that I almost didn’t know which one to try first.
But then I came across an intriguing option that stuffed this classic dish inside of a pumpkin. I loved it but not being able to find actual pumpkins here I put my own Albanian twist on the recipe by using a squash instead of pumpkin and mixing up the combination of cheeses to fit what I could find in the local stores. (My squash looked like a green pumpkin but was definitely a squash). My results were both tasty and impressive and I’m already thinking ahead to the next time I tweak the recipe even further……how about individual sized squashes stuffed with the creamy mac and cheese? Or substituting the sausage with bacon and the Cheddar with a creamy gorgonzola? For vegetarians I think a smoked gouda paired with meaty mushrooms would be delish! The possibilities are endless and I bet my guests will love it! In the mean time, here’s the single family sized version that my family devoured.
SAUSAGE MACARONI & CHEESE STUFFED SQUASH
1 large squash, about 5 pounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound hot Italian sausage
4 ounces small macaroni of your choice
5 ounces Gruyère, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3 scallions, diced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage
1 cup heavy cream
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut off the top of your squash, as you would when you are carving a pumpkin, and scoop out as much of the seeds and strings as you can.
- Sprinkle the inside of the squash with salt, pepper, and the sugar then replace the top.
- Place in a rimmed baking dish and roast for 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage to the pan and cook, crumbling the meat as you go, until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain with a slotted spoon and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Cook the macaroni according to the package instructions. Only cook until the pasta is al dente then drain and move to the bowl with the sausage.
- Add the cheeses, scallion, and chopped herbs to the bowl and toss well.
- Remove the squash from the oven and loosely pack it with the macaroni and cheese mixture.
- Pour the cream over the top of the macaroni and then replace the squash top.
- Bake for a total of one hour, removing the squash top during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
- For an impressive presentation, serve directly from the table being sure to scoop out the squash along with the macaroni.