These warm southern spring winds that blowing into Chicago have been springing crocuses, daffodils and magnolias sooner than normal. Despite a sneaking suspicion that this won't be good for the ground and the garden, these warm days have leant me the opportunity to begin biking to and from work, sending my happy/productive/efficiency juices into overdrive. When biking home last Wednesday, I spotted this smile-inducing bumper sticker in the middle of River West, snugged up near some of the best restaurants spots in our fair city. It's nice to see that I have some kindred spirits in neighborhood.
Truth be told, flowers aren't the only thing these warm spring winds have brought. In a span of eight days, three of Damon's friends added to their family count. In order to help welcome Ella, Oliver and Georgia into this great world of ours, I thought the best and most appropriate way was to feed their exhausted parents. Rounds of cookies from Nightwood via Lottie and Doof were baked and dusted, rounds of mac and cheese were roasted and bubbled, and a little red pepper brie quiche thrown together to help remind the parents of these little ones that they still need to be cared for and well fed.
Just in case you know of more spring babies that are on their way (we still have one more that we're expecting will arrive in early May), I thought I'd share the recipe for this killer mac and cheese. It's warm and sweet and comforting and healthy-ish. And above all, its tasty.
Roasted Butternut Squash Bacon Pasta
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, chopped into large dice (approximately 3 cups)
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 pound smoked bacon
1 medium shallot, finely diced
8 oz mini penne pasta, uncooked
1/4 t salt
1/2 c flour
2 c milk
3/4 c shredded Provolone cheese
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread chopped butternut squash in a single layer, lightly toss with olive oil, sprinkle rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 or so minutes, tossing frequently until the squash is tender and lightly browned. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside
In a large saute pan, cook bacon until crisp, set aside to cool. Pour off most of the bacon fat, reserving about 1/2 teaspoon. Cook shallots in bacon fat until soft and golden, about 4 minutes. Crumble bacon into bite size pieces and combine with shallots and squash mixture. Set aside.
In a large stock pot, begin whisking salt and flour together over medium high heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until the milk just barely starts to simmer. Turn flame to low and add Provolone cheese, continuing to whisk. Once incorporated, remove from heat at add cooked pasta to sauce. Stir to combine.
Coat a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray, and pour pasta mixture into dish. Top with squash bacon mixture and finish with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.