We don't eat pasta very often these days (alas), for the sake of Snark's pancreas, but when we have guests and want to make something we're sure everyone will love, it's hard to beat really good baked pasta with cheese. Bad cheesy pasta is gluey, or worse, runny, grainy, watery and lumpy. Bad cheesy pasta is too bland or too weird-tasting, and reminds the eater of cafeteria steam tables. But the good stuff is heavenly. Here are two equally delicious variations, one that's essentially the best macaroni and cheese I know, and one that's a little more chic and autumnal, with butternut squash.
This time of year, I like to get a squash and just bake it on the weekend, when I'm doing something else. Once it's cool, I scoop out the flesh and give it a rough mash. Then it goes into the fridge, all ready to be used in a recipe like this one. This baked pasta is rich and creamy, but never bland or soupy, with plenty of both crispy chewy top bits and pillowy inner bits. I like to serve it with lots of crisp salad -- with vinaigrette and thiny sliced red onions, please! -- and beer. I think that the first iteration of these recipes might have been something from an issue of Cook's Illustrated, but I like my way better than theirs, no matter how much they tested it. (So there!) It's a bit of work, but totally worth it. Serves 4-5 people.