Post-Thanksgiving Comfort

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Thanksgiving is a favorite of mine and I'm sure yours as well. And, of course, Christmas is just around the corner, but before we hurl ourselves into that festive and culinarily creative time, let's take a break and enjoy what we have left of autumn. For me, it's a season of comfort and few dishes are as comforting as homemade macaroni and cheese:

Of course, this dish gets the autumn treatment by showcasing sage sausage and roasted butternut squash. Heck both of those items might even be on hand from the recent festivities. It would be a great way to use leftovers and I promise I won't tell anyone how much easier this dish just got for you! Don't have butternut squash? How about acorn squash? Pumpkin? You get the idea. You could also try different kinds of sausage, but I find the sage sausage pairs so very well with the squash and pasta that I just haven't gotten around to trying other varieties.

Since Thanksgiving was just a few days ago, you might want to just pair this fun dish with leftover salads or bread from that event. You could also just toss together a simple salad - maybe something with kale or spinach. I like buttery dinner rolls, but even biscuits would be great here. For beverages, the sky is the limit, but I'd probably just pour a mug of apple cider … and maybe warm it a little if it's frosty outside. Suddenly, it's really apparent that there's even more to be grateful for this fall.

Autumn Mac 'n Cheese

  • 2 heaping cups dry elbow pasta
  • 1 lb. sage sausage (either in bulk or in casings)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cubed, roasted butternut squash (or similar winter squash)
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the pasta in lots of well salted water until just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until all the pink is gone. (If your sausage is in casings, remove the casings from them first.) Break up the meat as you cook it so that it forms small crumbles. Drain off any excess fat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and whisk in the flour, Stir to combine and cook for a minute, but do not brown. Slowly add the milk to the pan while stirring, making sure to get all the flour off the bottom and edges of the pan. Heat the milk until it thickens, stirring constantly. Do not let the milk boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted.

Add the squash, sausage, and the cooked pasta to the pan and blend well. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Turn the pasta into individual baking dishes or one casserole. If desired, place a small spoon of crumbled sausage in the center of each baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes