We found a tiny little six-week-old kitten in the orchard adjacent to our house a couple weeks ago. My 7-year-old son happened to spot him and with the help of my husband, they gently coaxed the kitty down from the apple tree it was hiding in. Soaking wet (from the rain) and terrified, the kitten was lost, alone and hungry. They brought it up to the house and with very sad and pathetic eyes, oh so nicely, asked if we could keep the kitten. Who am I to say no to a tiny kitten?
We took the cat to the vet and found out it’s a male, very healthy with only a minor case of fleas. A round of flea treatment for all our pets and a bill of clean health, we headed home to negotiate a name and redistribution of household responsibilities. I might have said yes to the kitten, but I had promises from all three of my children they would help care of him. The jury is still out on their overall helpfulness but they certainly adore this new addition.
Rex, the kitten, now runs the house. My daughter carries him around like a baby and occasionally wraps him in a blanket and takes him for a ride in her doll stroller. My boys play endlessly with the kitten, chasing him around the house, digging him out from under beds and behind the couch. Obviously, we’re all a little smitten by this little ball of fluff. He was a sweet surprise on a rainy cold Saturday and it’s one I won’t soon forget.
I want to offer some good old-fashioned comfort food this week. October was a month of soups (and a batch of pumpkin muffins because I couldn’t resist) to get in the mindset of fall and winter, but November is all about the cozy, warm meals perfect for this time of year.
Roasted butternut squash makes a silky rich sauce without being heavy. The salty bacon and roasted cauliflower add texture and flavor to the dish. I recommend buying the pre-cut butternut squash to save yourself a few minutes of work. I know you can find it at Safeway and Costco, but I’m sure other grocery stores carry it too. Fontina cheese is very mild which is why I chose it for this recipe but a smoked gouda or sharp cheddar would be delicious as well. I have a decadent ‘all-cheese’ mac and cheese recipe on the blog if butternut squash isn’t your thing. It has bacon and smoke gouda, parmesan and the creamiest most delicious sauce you’re ever tasted. Recipe is HERE if you want to take a look.
Roasted Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 12 ounces pre-cut, cubed and peeled butternut squash (about 2-2 1/2 cups)
- 1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
- 1 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 box pasta, penne, shells or cavatelli all work well
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3 pieces center cut bacon, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet spread the cauliflower and butternut squash evenly on the pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, use a spatula halfway through to flip the vegetables so they cook evenly. The vegetables should be golden brown and cooked through.
In a saute pan, cook the onion and bay leaf in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic to the onion and continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are soft and translucent.
In a food processor or blender, pulse the butternut squash, half of the roasted cauliflower (set aside the other half for later), the onion and garlic until smooth. Make sure to remove the bay leaf from the onions! Slowly add the chicken stock (you could also use vegetable stock, water or milk) until the sauce is smooth and silky. Add nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper to the sauce.
In a large pot, boil the pasta in heavily salted water. Drain the noodles when they are not quite finished cooking, you want them to still have a bite. Put the noodles back in the large pot and pour the sauce over the noodles. Stir in the roasted cauliflower and mix the shredded cheese into the pasta.
Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon the pasta into the baking pan and spread the diced bacon evenly over the dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the bacon is cooked through and the edges are bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle the dish with dried parsley and serve immediately.