Smokey delicata baked macaroni and cheese

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

Food_MacandCheese
This creamy baked macaroni cheese rich with cheddar has an added boost from delicata squash.

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 9×13-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.

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