My dear friend Vanessa, a great chef, was kind enough to send me one of her recipes to try. I happen to be allergic to shrimp, but you could also use grilled chicken or ground turkey instead.  One of my favorite foods happens to be mac & cheese, so I’ll be sure to give this healthier alternative a try!  Looks delicious, Vanessa!

Squash & Prawns Mac

From Vanessa Lee

This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Rigatoni with butternut squash: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/rigatoni-with-squash-and-prawns-recipe/index.html

Although her recipe calls for butternut squash, you can use any winter squash you find.  I used frozen for its convenience.  However, you can buy fresh, peel, cube, and saute until tender.  Then puree.  Sometimes you can find fresh squash already cubed, that would save you a few steps.

I couldn’t believe how rich and filling this dish was.  In fact, I believe I may have found the perfect alternative to mac & cheese.  Kids will not miss the old high cholesterol & high fat mac & cheese, and neither should you.  This recipe uses 1/2 – 3/4 cup of cheese at most and that’s for a whole 16 oz bag of dry pasta; no butter, no cream.  Just about 1/2 cup – 1 cup of milk. 

In addition, winter squash (the main part of the sauce) is so good for you:

Winter squash is a low-calorie, good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber.

It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).

It is also a source of niacin, iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta carotene content. - Information from Wikipedia

I served it with shrimp as Giada suggested, but you can do chopped grilled chicken may be even mix in ground turkey.  Another alternative I thought of is changing up the type of cheese you use or adding a little spice.  Originally I made it with shredded romano, but what about adding smoked paprika and using sharp cheddar instead – sounds good!

Ingredients

  • 1 stalk of leeks, sliced

  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 packets of frozen, cooked squash
  • about 1 cup of vegetable, or chicken stock
  • about 1 cup of milk
  • 1 bag of brown rice macaroni elbow pasta, cooked al dente ( I usehttp://www.tinkyada.com/ProList.htm )
  • 1/2 cup basil, chiffonade
  • about 3/4 cup of romano cheese
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled & de-veined
  • Olive oil (to saute)
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Smoked paprika (must be smoked)

Instructions

  1. Saute the leeks & garlic until soft

  2. Add the frozen squash and allow to begin defrosting in the pan, add salt & pepper
  3. When the squash is about 50% melted, add the stock and allow to simmer on low until the squash is fully melted
  4. Add the milk into the squash, add the pasta, 1/2 tbsp of paprika,  1/2 the cheese and 1/2 the basil, then fold carefully not to break the pasta
  5. Set aside
  6. Saute the shrimp with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of cayenne
  7. Serve the pasta in a bowl, sprinkle with cheese, basil, and top with a few sauteed shrimp.

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