For some reason out of my 500+ recipes, I never thought to create a mac and cheese recipe. Until now. I supposed I figured there’s already so many out there that the world didn’t need another one. But then fall came around and my obsession with squash convinced me to finally take the plunge. This n’duja butternut squash mac and cheese uses spicy Calabrian sausage and sweet squash to create one incredibly delicious comforting dish. Use the n'duja to make brown butter n'duja breadcrumbs for the finishing touch and you have a restaurant quality dish!
N'duja Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 6 ounces n'duja
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 sage leaves
- ½ cup panko
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cup milk
- 1 cup butternut squash puree
- 4 ounces grated sharp cheddar
- 3 ounces grated gruyere
- 8 ounces shell pasta
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add n'duja and break into small chunks using a wooden spoon. Continue to heat n'duja until it starts to sizzle and breakdown. Remove 1 tablespoon and set aside. Turn off the flame and set aside pot while you make the breadcrumbs.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Continue to heat butter until it browns and smells nutty. Add sage and heat for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add panko and stir to coat breadcrumbs in butter. Heat until breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in reserved 1 tablespoon n'duja. Set aside.
- Return to the other pot and turn back flames to medium heat. Add flour to pot with n'duja and stir to combine. Pour milk and butternut squash puree and stir to combine. Bring to a low simmer and continue to heat until the milk starts to thicken, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add sharp cheddar and gruyere, stirring until cheese is melted. Season sauce with salt and pepper and keep warm on low heat.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add to cheese sauce, stirring to coat pasta. Serve mac and cheese into bowls and top with brown butter n'duja breadcrumbs.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
What's great about this n'duja butternut squash mac and cheese is that it's a stovetop mac and cheese. That means you make the sauce, add the pasta, and voila it's done. I don't have anything against baked mac and cheese but I prefer this quicker method.
If you never heard of n'duja before, it's a type of spicy pork sausage that's spreadable, similar to a paste. It can be difficult to find and a little on the pricier side so if you're looking for a substitute, I recommend chorizo.
Heat a large pot and add the n'duja. The sausage paste has enough fat in it that you don't need to add oil to the pot. Continue to heat the n'duja until it starts to break down. Since the meat is preserved and fermented, you can actually eat it straight from the package. However, its texture also allows you to cook it and lets you incorporate those wonderful flavors into dishes.
Now remove 1 tablespoon of the crumbled n'duja and set it aside. In a separate pan, melt butter until it turns deep golden and smells nutty.
Add fresh sage leaves and release their flavors into the butter. Then, add the panko, stirring to coat. If you have fresh breadcrumbs, I highly recommend using them. But I went with the shortcut and used panko instead.
Once the panko turns golden brown, remove it from heat and stir in the reserved crumbled n'duja. Set aside the breadcrumbs while we return to the pasta.
Let's go back to the pot with the rest of the n'duja and stir in flour, tossing to coat. The flour will help thicken the sauce. Add the milk and butternut squash puree and let the sauce until thickened.
If you're not sure how to make butternut squash puree, I'm here to help! All you have to do is cook a medium butternut squash either by roasting, steaming, or boiling. Once tender, transfer the squash to a blender and puree until smooth. That's all folks! Feel free to make the puree several days in advance.
Finish the pasta sauce with sharp cheddar and gruyere and season with salt and pepper.
Next, cook your pasta of choice until al dente. I used pasta shells but any small shaped pasta will work.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and toss until well combined. Portion the n'duja butternut squash mac and cheese and top with a generous sprinkle of brown butter n'duja breadcrumbs.
This recipe made enough for 4 people and somehow, I ended up eating the entire batch by myself (over the course of several days!). I very much looked forward to having another portion the next day because yes, it was that good. And I look forward to the next time I make this mac and cheese!
For more dishes with n'duja, check out these pull apart n'duja meatball sliders!