Another year ending, and another waiting around the corner. There were so many moments of joy and contentment during these past 365 days: John took the leap to change career paths, we got engaged, I started work at my dream job, and my youngest sibling is inching closer and closer to graduation and college. Friends moved closer and started new jobs, and the quotidian of life, while sometimes humdrum, has been replete with small wins.
I admit, I’ve always felt a bit sad at years end; the splendor of Christmas and the fizzy anticipation of the New Year fades once that clock strikes 12. The old year, with its triumphs and heartbreak, fades away into memory, while the new one begins in the desolation of winter. It’s a cold birth, but I try to remind myself that the year is quick to gain warmth and vitality. New opportunities, new interactions and lots of new food await. Happy New Year to you and yours, here’s a dish to celebrate.
Butternut Squash and Kale Skillet Mac and Cheese
2 cups Cavolo Nero kale (or other leafy green), stems removed, finely sliced
2 cups cooked butternut squash (cube it, toss in 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch salt, spread on baking sheet and roast at 415 for 20 min, until very tender)
8 oz fontina, shredded
1/2 cup shredded gruyere
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
½ lb pasta
¾ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp Dijon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup panko, salt pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 with the rack in the center.
First, let’s get that squash pureed
Blend cooled butternut squash in food processor until mostly smooth (it’s okay if there are some chunkier bits).
Now, we’ll make a simple bechamel
Melt the butter a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk, cooking for about 1 minute or until nutty smelling and lightly browned. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream until smooth. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until bechamel has thickened up enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the salt, pepper, Dijon, minced garlic, nutmeg, butternut squash puree, and cheese. Set aside.
After that, start cooking the pasta
Cook 1/2 pound of the pasta of your choice (any tubular kind works well) until very al dente. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the kale and cook for a few seconds. Drain, then add to the bechamel mixture.
Put it all together
Gently stir the pasta to integrate, then top with an even coating of panko. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. After, remove the aluminum foil, bump the heat up to 500, and bake for a further 7-10 minutes. Let cool for 3-5 minutes, then serve.