The title of this dish is way too long for something so simple. I’ve already made this cheesy, slightly spicy pasta several times on a whim, using ingredients I already had in my kitchen. Naming recipes is one of the oddest challenges of blogging. You’ve got the recipe figured out, the photos taken, the post written, and yet you still have to come up with a title that summarizes this thing you’ve put all this work into. Is it just me?
This dish came to my mind for a few reasons, the most obvious of which is the fact that I wanted mac and cheese. Clearly. The thing is, I’ve really taken to these lighter, amped up versions of mac and cheese that include some variety of squash or carrot or sweet potato. They give the dish an extra depth of flavor that I love – not to mention lending the cheesy pasta a yellow, reminiscent-of-blue-boxed-variety hue even when you use all white extra sharp cheddar cheese. (And extra sharp is the way to go here, for sure.)
The rest of the dish is a reminder, at least for me, about how a few excellent ingredients can turn a good dish to great. This pasta was transformed by a particularly good, very sharp, cheese that Frank found at our local grocery store, and what is possibly the best chorizo I have ever had. The chorizo is a local find from a farmer’s market vendor here in Bangkok who also sells an incredible bacon that I have been hoarding in my freezer for a special occasion (or Tuesday night BLT).
There’s something about the spicy chorizo, the sweetness of the squash, and the all-together goodness of cheesy pasta that really work in this dish. It will be a fake fall favorite here, particularly since I’ll be spending as much time as possible in the coming weeks roasting large batches of squash in order to remind myself that somewhere the weather is getting cooler.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Squash and Chorizo
- 1/2 pound squash (butternut, acorn, or kabocha), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ pound pasta (spiral shapes are my favorite for this dish, but penne or elbow would be great too)
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup finely chopped onions
- 3/4 cup finely chopped red pepper (about 1 red pepper)
- 6 ounces chorizo, crumbled
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
- Cook the squash either in the microwave or oven. To cook in the microwave, place the squash in a bowl with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom. Cover the bowl with a plate and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes, or until the squash is very tender. To roast in the oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the squash cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is very tender, stirring halfway through, about 20-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
- In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium. When melted, add the onions and red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, just until the chorizo breaks down and releases moisture, 3-5 minutes. Add the flour and stir until it is incorporated with the vegetables and no white spots remain. Add the roasted squash, broth, and the reserved ½ cup of pasta water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. If large pieces of squash remain, use a spatula or spoon to gently press them against the sides and bottom of the pan to break apart. (You want most of the squash to dissolve into the sauce, with just a few small pieces remaining.)
- Turn the heat off and stir in the pasta and cheddar cheese until evenly combined. Serve immediately.
This dish is unlikely to need additional salt if you salted your pasta water and if your chorizo is, like mine, rather salty to begin with. However, taste the dish at the end and add additional salt, if preferred.