« Market to Pantry #7: Dean & DeLuca, Washington DC | Main | Tomato sauce (Recipe: turkey or chicken picadillo empanadas) »

Cayenne pepper (Recipe: butternut squash macaroni and cheese) {vegetarian}

Butternut squash mac and cheese

One fun thing to know about cayenne pepper:

Native to Central and South America, cayenne pepper is also called cow horn pepper, but if you saw a jar of cow horn pepper sitting on your spice rack, you might not reach for it very often! The name cayenne comes from a small town in French Guiana, where the pepper is cultivated. An excellent source of Vitamin A, cayenne packs the same heat wallop as Tabasco® sauce, and makes a great substitute when you want pure heat without the added vinegar.

Cooking or baking?
Cooking, mostly, but also baking.

On the spice rack, in a tightly-sealed tin or glass jar, for up to 1 year. I keep a small supply near my cooking area, and extra pepper in the freezer to prolong its shelf life.

More about cayenne pepper.

Butternutt squash macaroni and cheese

Butternut squash macaroni and cheese

Adapted from marthastewart.com, this mac and cheese pleased young and old and vegetarians at our holiday table. You can substitute any type of squash, and any type of short, stubby pasta. The little pinch of cayenne pepper adds balance to the dish, so don't omit it. Serves 6.


1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound) , peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup water (or homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock)
1-1/2 cups skim milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1 lb short pasta (rotini, cellentani, or elbow macaroni)
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (storebought okay)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated, divided
2 Tbsp panko
1 tsp olive oil
Olive-oil cooking spray


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine squash, water (or stock) and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine panko, remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.

Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30-40 minutes more.

Serve immediately, or let cool and refrigerate for up to two days. Leftovers can be frozen.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Ethiopian chicken in red pepper sauce
Bob's smoky beef ribs
Slow-roasted tomato mac and cheese
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta mac and cheese
Gumbo ya-ya
Salmon tagine with chermoula

Other recipes that use cayenne pepper:
Hot and spicy chocolate chip cookies, from No Recipes
Roasted squash soup with cayenne pepper, from 24 Boxes
Truffles with cayenne pepper, from Sassy Radish
Middle of the road chile con carne, from Jane Spice
Adobo chicken, from This Week for Dinner

Butternut squash mac and cheese: the kids will love it!

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


This looks like wonderful winter comfort food!
And I don't think I could live without the blazing heat of cayenne pepper. Wonder where the name cow horn pepper came from.

This mac and cheese looks great! I'm always looking for ways to sneak in the veggies without detracting from the decadence.

A friend grew cayenne peppers this summer -- they dry incredibly easily, so if you want to make your own chili powder, this would be the way to go.

Oh my goodness... That looks so good! Definitely going to try it!

I am always looking for butternut squash recipes and this would be as comforting a dish as ever.

Nupur, the name comes from the shape, which resembles a cow's horn. And I can't live without blazing hot peppers, either.

Julia, the genius of this dish is that the b'nut squash and the cheddar cheese are the same color!

Kristen, our grandkids loved it. We "forgot" to tell them that there were vegetables in it.

Bellini, it was a truly luxurious mac and cheese, and a great use of squash puree.

I never knew the history about cayenne pepper, just that it is my friend. ;-) I love the idea of putting it on the macaroni and cheese. Yum! ;-)


I've heard about this dish but never tasted anything like it. Sounds good to me though (anything with butternut squash has to be good, right?)

This is gorgeous - what a beautiful color. My nephews turned up their nose at my butternut squash puree at Thanksgiving. Apparently, they had some sort of childhood trauma. But I'll bet if I served it to them as Mac and Cheese they would eat it up!

ok - not true - but seriously any pasta and cheese combo has me drooling and adding the squash, cayenne is just pure genius.
(sorry I think I am slightly edgy from dieting!)

We don't use too much cayenne pepper in our cooking. We tend to use different chillies and peppers in our dishes. But cayenne is probably the perfect pepper for this dish.

We also use different kinds of peppers in our dishes. We grow most of them in our garden. Cayenne is a classical pepper but not so hot. We like it hotter in most of our recipes :D

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.