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Mac & Cheese with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale, & Chicken Sausage

As the whole country knows, Atlanta has had some winter weather troubles lately. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough not to get stuck in the 24-hour city-wide traffic jam—only took me an hour and a half to get home. I hadn’t had the foresight to check the weather ahead of time, so I ended up being stuck at home for a few days with only the food I had stocked up in my pantry and fridge. (I did have wine this time…a few years ago I got snowed/iced in for five days without wine. #neveragain)

Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, & Sausage

I started poking around to see what I could make. I was craving comfort food but knew I needed to eat somewhat healthy. Unfortunately I hadn’t bought many fruits and veggies, but I found a butternut squash in the fridge and had some wilted kale, so I figured I could make something work. This is a true McGyver meal, but I think it came out pretty darn good. It was creamy and warm, with the salty sausage and the kale adding different textures.

Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, & Sausage baked

Can you tell I’ve been craving comfort food? Seriously, I could have chosen to make a quinoa casserole or something, but instead I ended up with a steamy, creamy mac & cheese.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage squash

Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the diced butternut squash with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and tender enough to be easily cut with a fork.

Decrease the oven temperature to 350 F. Set a large pot of water to boil and spray a large 9×13 pan with non-stick spray. Once the water is boiling, add a handful of salt and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions minus a minute or two—you want to keep it a little al dente. Drain and set aside.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage sausage

While the pasta is cooking, cut the sausage into disks and saute with a little olive oil until browned and crispy. Set aside.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage sauteed kale

Saute the kale with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and set aside with the sausage and roasted squash.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage butter

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage roux

When the pasta goes into the water, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s melted and bubbling for a minute, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds—no more or the garlic will scorch. Quickly whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking to avoid lumps.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage milk

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage rosemary

Slowly start whisking in the milk a little at a time until it’s all combined. Add the rosemary or other herbs now, as well as some salt and pepper. Let it thicken, still whisking. Sometimes it thickens right away, but usually it makes me work for it. You may need to turn up the heat a little, and it can take up to 10 minutes sometimes for it to thicken up a little. Don’t let it stick to the bottom, though.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage shredded cheese

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage cheese sauce

Once it’s thickened (it should thickly coat the back of a spoon when dipped in), remove from the heat and stir in the cheese quickly. You want it totally distributed and melted.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage ingredients

Stir together the drained pasta, cheese sauce, sausage, kale, and butternut squash.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage assembled

Pour the mixture in the 9×13 pan and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs if you’re using them. My pantry did not yield any.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage assembled closeup

Bake for around 15-20 minutes, the top should be golden brown.

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage baked

This made the fact that it was snowing and sleeting AGAIN bearable. Seriously, I did not sign up for this winter weather!

mac & cheese with butternut squash kale sausage closeup

Mmm, mac & cheese…

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale, & Chicken Sausage

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled & diced into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups of kale leaves, de-stemmed & torn into pieces
  • 1 package of chicken sausage links (mine are from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 package of curly, macaroni-like pasta
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • Optional:  2 tablespoons of minced fresh rosemary or other herb
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) of shredded sharp cheddar (I’d recommend white but used yellow)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used white pepper)
  • Optional:  2 tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a large baking sheet (preferably with sides) with aluminum foil. Toss the diced butternut squash with some olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and tender enough to be easily cut with a fork.

Decrease the oven temperature to 350 F. Set a large pot of water to boil and spray a large 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.

Once the water is boiling, add a handful of salt and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions minus a minute or two (keep it a little al dente). Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, cut the sausage into disks and saute with a little olive oil until browned and crispy. Set aside. Saute the kale the same way (add a little salt and pepper) and set aside with the sausage and roasted squash.

When the pasta goes into the water, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s melted and bubbling for a minute, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds (not more than this or the garlic will scorch). Quickly whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking to avoid lumps. Slowly start incorporating the milk, a little at a time, whisking in-between pours until it’s all included. Go ahead and add the rosemary or other herbs now too. You’ll want it to thicken, which occasionally happens right away but I’m rarely so lucky. You may need to turn up the heat a little, and it can take up to 10 minutes sometimes for it to thicken up a little. Once it has, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it’s well-distributed and melted. Season with the salt and pepper.

Stir together the drained pasta, cheese sauce, sausage and vegetables. Pour the mixture in the 9×13 pan and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs if you’re using them. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

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  1. […] Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese – leave out the sausage for a great side […]

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