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Smokey delicata baked macaroni and cheese

Comfort food for autumn: baked macaroni and cheese with delicata squash.

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    This creamy baked macaroni cheese rich with cheddar has an added boost from delicata squash.
    The Kitchen Paper
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There are a few dishes that stand out in my mind from my childhood — falafel, German pancakes, and baked macaroni and cheese. My mom had a recipe for baked mac that was my absolute favorite! While she usually fed us heaps of veggies, if I could get her to make mac and cheese I felt VERY accomplished. Nothing says “comfort food” for me quite like macaroni and cheese. It works every time!

Now that I’m all grown up (let’s not debate that statement…), I still turn to mac and cheese when it’s cold and dreary and I want a little comfort: but now I make it with some twists! This version has a hefty dose of smoked paprika, roasted delicata squash, and of course: Tillamook Cheddar. I used a blend of Extra Sharp and Extra Sharp White — a great combo for this recipe.

Tillamook Cheddar is, for me, another tradition. If you’ve followed The Kitchen Paper for very long, I’m sure it’s been clear that Tillamook is my jam: It’s what I grew up with! I ate an entire pound of their award-winning Medium Cheddar before my junior prom (that’s a story for another time….)! Ten years later, they’re still making the same, natural cheddar recipe that they have been for the past 100 years. They age it with time, not shortcuts, and keep their dairy clean: there’s nothing to hide in a block of Tillamook Cheddar! Having been to their factory approximately 20 times, I know it’s true. You can see every step of the process, and taste their cheddars at various aging points. Maybe that’s why Tillamook has won more than 750 awards since 1909, including “America’s Best” Medium Cheddar in this year’s International Cheese Awards! They’re doing cheddar right!

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This recipe has a few parts, but I swear you don’t need to be intimidated by it. All you have to do is cook the pasta and roast the squash (both of which can be done ahead of time), then make the sauce. The sauce starts with a roux, and gets all sorts of great flavors along the way. Finally, you’ll mix everything together, top with bread crumbs, and bake. The end result is a superior macaroni and cheese that might just become a family tradition for you, too.

Save $1 on Tillamook Cheddar for your next macaroni and cheese recipe. Download the coupon here.

This Kitchen Paper post is sponsored by Tillamook, but all opinions are my own.

Smokey delicata baked macaroni and cheese
Serves 6 to 8

1 delicata squash
2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
Salt & pepper
1 lb. dry pasta
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, diced
4  tablespoons flour
4 cups hot milk
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 lb. shredded Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 lb. shredded Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
1 cup dry breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Cut the squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and then cut into 1/3-inch thick crescents. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. The squash won’t be completely cooked after 10 minutes, but that’s OK!

2. In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, then rinse, toss with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, and set aside.

3. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepot. Add the onion and remaining 2 teaspoon smoked paprika. Cook for 3 minutes before adding the flour. Whisk constantly, taking care not to burn the roux. After two minutes, add the hot milk all at once and whisk vigorously until smooth.

4. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often, and let simmer for 15 minutes. It will thicken somewhat.

5. After 15 minutes, add the nutmeg, and another 1/2 teaspoon or so (to taste) each of salt & pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

6. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheeses until fully melted and smooth.

7. Combine the sauce and the pasta, and gently fold in the squash. Pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish, or smaller oven-safe dishes for individual servings. Top generously with dry breadcrumbs, and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes. The top should be turning golden!

8. Serve immediately.

Related post on The Kitchen Paper: White Cheddar & Peas Macaroni & Cheese Quesadilla

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