Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is classic mac & cheese with a fall twist, and it’s a slightly sneaky, delicious way to get extra veggies into your meals!
I’m serving you the one of the ultimate comfort foods today, with an extra sneaky ingredient. It’s not sneaky to you because you’ve seen the title of this post and know there’s butternut squash here, but it’s sneaky to those that you choose not to tell for a variety of reasons.
Reason #1 — picky eaters
Reason #2 — some may view veggies in mac and cheese as “ruining” it
Reason #3 — some people think they don’t like butternut squash
That third reason is just plain crazy talk, because there’s nobody out there that really doesn’t like butternut squash is there?
I don’t understand anybody not liking butternut squash — maybe they just think they don’t. It’s sweet and velvety, and can make every dish better. I love it soups, ravioli, cornbread, and naturally, roasted.
Oh, let me count the ways. 🙂
This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese was destined to happen a long time ago but it just didn’t. I get distracted sometimes and forget to make things that are on my “list”. It was high on my list of things to make this fall, so here it is in all it’s creamy, savory-sweet, butternut squash glory.
Let’s go back to the sneaky thing again. My kids love butternut squash, but I thought Reason #2 would be behind them possibly not liking it. I was taking the photos for this right after school, and my kids were in the room. I asked my youngest son to hold the spoon for me in the photo above, and I thought he would spy the butternut squash puree in the bowl and decide he didn’t want it.
I didn’t say a word about it, and neither did he. All he asked was “Can I eat this spoonful?” Of course I said yes because that’s one of the perks for helping me take photos. He gobbled it up, then asked if he could eat that whole dishful for dinner. I said he was in luck, because that was dinner! Both of my boys gobbled it up without even saying it tasted “different” or anything to that effect.
I roasted my own butternut squash here and pureed it because I didn’t have can of butternut squash puree in the cabinet. The only place I’ve ever found it is Whole Foods, and the nearest one is too far away to go just for that. If you’re in the same boat as me, just buy a small butternut squash, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it in a 400 degree oven until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Take off the peel, and puree the flesh. This can all be done in advance, which is the best part.
I typically make my mac and cheese on the lighter side, because I don’t enjoy really rich food very often. I used skim milk because that’s what I had, which left room for plenty of full fat shredded cheddar. To me, the cheese makes more of a difference, so I used the real deal. I don’t prefer light cheese, but I do prefer light milk. A little strange, yes, but that’s how I roll. 🙂
I did use whole wheat elbow pasta here to get plenty of whole grains, too, which gives us a lot more nutrition and fiber. You can use whatever pasta you prefer, and it will be great. It’s creamy, slightly sweet, and total comfort food — with fall flair, no less! And whatever reason you have for not telling anybody is just fine, because you have their best interests at heart.
This here is living proof that veggies have a place in mac and cheese. 🙂
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small butternut squash (or use 1 package cubed butternut squash, or canned puree)*
- 8 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni or your favorite pasta
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk (I used low fat)
- 1½ - 2 cups grated cheddar cheese*, divided
- ½ cup butternut squash puree
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Cut the top and bottom off of the butternut squash, and stand it upright on a cutting board. Cut in half from the top down. Scoop out the seeds, then brush with the olive oil, some salt and pepper, and place cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until tender.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the peel from the squash and place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor, pureeing in two batches if necessary. Process until smooth and set aside.
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to package instructions, then drain.
- While the pasta cooks, heat the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and whisk constantly until it's golden brown and bubbly and smells like shortbread, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add about ⅓ of the milk in a slow steady stream while whisking constantly until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk until smooth, and place back over medium heat. Whisk the mixture constantly to prevent burning, and cook until thickened and boiling, about 5-10 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the 1½ cups of cheese and butternut squash puree. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the pasta and stir until combined.
- Place in a greased 8x8" casserole dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil greased with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Garnish with fresh sage, if using, serve and enjoy!
*I used mild cheddar cheese because that's what I had on hand, but fontina, gruyere, white cheddar and many other cheeses would be delicious!
If baking in gratin dishes as shown in the photos here, baking time is only 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Recipe by Flavor the Moments.