Coconut milk is the unexpected ingredient here. It adds a degree of richness that obviates the need for cheese. No, this will never replace mac ‘n cheese, but it’s a delicious change.
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 c peeled, chopped (1-inch) butternut or other winter squash
1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
1 t dried sage, rosemary, cumin, or coriander; or 1 t curry powder, chile powder…
salt and pepper, to taste
3 c dried elbow macaroni
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 c bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add squash, coconut milk, dried herb or other seasoning, salt, and pepper and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes or a couple of minutes less than the package instructions. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
4. Transfer squash mixture to the bowl with macaroni along with walnuts and stir to combine. Transfer to prepared dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake until just golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.