We all love dinner parties, especially at the beginning of the season when new and exciting foods are being reintroduced into our diets. However, hosting the dinner party can be overwhelming, and that is why I suggest hosting a potluck dinner party.
Guests can express their enthusiasm about a fresh food of choice available in the local farmer’s market, or the less culinary-inclined guests can opt to bring a guaranteed-likeable beverage. Either way, the load will be significantly lessened for you, but more importantly, you can perfect one excellent dish instead of preparing several lackluster dishes. In this case, quality beats quantity! Knock the socks off your dinner guests with a seasonally inspired Pimento Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash!
While we all consider classic macaroni and cheese to be a guilty pleasure, this butternut squash version helps justify such an indulgent comfort food. A great source of nutrients, butternut squash contains vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. The burst of vitamin A has been known to promote healthy skin, while the potassium helps maintain good blood pressure and the fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer.
If the addition of butternut squash didn’t distinguish this tasty dish already, what really elevates this dish from tradition is the pimiento sauce. The combination of cheeses with the bell peppers, chilies and Peppadew peppers complements the pasta impeccably. Serving this cheesy mac will without a doubt make your contribution to the potluck unforgettable!
Pimiento Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
¼ teaspoon ground ancho chilies
¾ cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine
1 tablespoon brine of Peppadew peppers reserved
1 ¼ cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup whole-milk mozzarella, grated
8 ounces medium shell pasta
1 small butternut squash, cubed
1 cup chicken stock
1 ½ cups nonfat milk
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
½ cup panko
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and combine cubed squash, stock and milk in medium saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring combination to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes until squash is tender. Remove from heat and mash, then stir in nutmeg, cayenne and salt. Set aside.
2. Next, in a small saucepan, bring ½ cup water, bell pepper and 1 ½ garlic cloves to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes until pepper is tender.
3. Transfer bell pepper mixture to food processor, adding Peppadews and brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chilies and ½ glove garlic. Then add in cheddar and ½ cup of Parmesan. Blend until smooth.
4. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then cook pasta for about 8 minutes or until al dente. After draining, transfer to large bowl. Stir in squash mixture and sauce and mozzarella into pasta.
5. Toast panko over medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes, stirring often until golden. In a bowl, once lukewarm, rub 1 tablespoon butter to coat and add ¼ cup Parmesan.
6. Lightly coat a 9-inch square 4-inch deep baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer pasta mixture, topping it with the Parmesan panko. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil after 20 minutes and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until lightly brown and crispy. Serve and enjoy!