This deeply flavorful, fall-inspired pancetta mac and cheese calls on rich butternut squash and cheddar for a sweet and savory combo.
- 1 pound (16 ounces) cavatappi pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
- 1 1/8 cups (6 ounces) pancetta diced in 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or parsley, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and spray a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking pan or 3-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the cavatappi, stirring occasionally until al dente, about 9-11 minutes. Drain the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with the oil to prevent sticking. Set the pot aside to use for making the sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, place a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
- Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Return the empty pot used for cooking the pasta to the stove. Add the butternut squash puree and the milk. Whisk until combined over medium heat, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat level as needed.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the salt, black pepper, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper. Add the cheese about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring between additions to combine thoroughly and ensure that it melts. Season to taste with additional salt.
- Add the pasta and half of the pancetta, and stir until well-coated. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the panko breadcrumbs and remaining pancetta.
- Bake until golden-brown on top and bubbling around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for about 5 minutes before garnishing with the chives and serving.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Mac and Cheese
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Comfort Food
Keywords: mac and cheese, butternut squash, casserole, pancetta