There’s something about short, cold days that makes me hibernate indoors. And yet, it also makes me feel like I have less time than during the long days of summer, when the time between work and bed can feel like days. Combine this with the fact that produce is sparse, and I end up with a lot of issues – most of them cooking related. In an attempt to solve multiple problems at once, I have turned to making freezer meals. I love these because I can spend an hour or two on Sunday, when I actually have the time, using up my extra produce that I didn’t get to during the week. And I can make several meals at a time.
This week’s installment is a great sneaky meal. It’s healthier and has more vegetables than one would think, but it’s still a great winter comfort food. At the bottom of the recipe, I’ll put directions for eating right away, as well as freezing. For a more comprehensive take on freezer meals, the Rodale cookbook “Cook and Freeze” is great.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
16 oz box short whole wheat pasta (rotini, macaroni, fusili)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 cups wilted or frozen spinach
salt to taste
Optional – Bread Crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350°. Once preheated, roast butternut squash for 35 minutes, or until tender. Sprinkle a little olive oil or water on top if it starts to look dry. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and return to pot.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine squash, cheese, milk, butter, and oregano. Combine by hand, or use an immersion blender or hand mixer.
- Add spinach to the squash mixture, and stir in by hand.
- Add squash mixture to the pasta pot, and stir to combine.
- Cover two 9″x13″ baking pans, or one 9″x13″ pan and two cake/pie pans, in aluminum foil. Transfer pasta to baking dishes.
- If cooking – bake at 375° for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil, then remove cover and bake for 15 minutes, topped with breadcrumbs if desired.
- If freezing – Cover pans with aluminum foil, then freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can remove the aluminum packets from the pans. The pie dishes will fit in gallon freezer bags. For the larger casseroles, wrap them in an additional layer of aluminum foil. Make sure to seal it tightly to prevent freezer burn.
- Cooking from frozen – Thaw in original baking pan for 12 hours in refrigerator, then cook as directed in step 7. If you need to cook it directly from the freezer, it will take about 80 minutes at 375°.
- As always – season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy! Yield – 9″x13″ pan serves 5-6, cake or pie pan serves 2-4