Welcome to my new favorite healthy weeknight meal. Yes, mac n’ cheese can be healthy and comforting at the very same time. All you need to do is make the simple butternut squash cheese sauce you’ll find in the recipe below, and you’re good to go!
Photos via Edible Perspective
I love using vegetables in creative ways and this butternut squash mac n’ cheese recipe is definitely my new favorite.
I have to tell you I was skeptical of making a butternut squash cheese sauce, thinking it was going to taste too squashy. But with just a few extra ingredients the flavors are completely balanced and create an amazingly rich sauce for the macaroni noodles to be engulfed in.
Shallot and garlic add just the right amount of contrast to the squash.
And I found roasting the squash deepened the flavor in comparison to boiling or steaming it.
The squash puree was so tasty I found myself shoveling spoonfuls straight into my mouth! The sauce can definitely be used without adding any cheese to the mix if you’d like to keep it vegan. I’ve seen other vegan recipes call for nutritional yeast, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Feel free to add a few tablespoons if you like, along with a bit more milk.
I’m not going to tell you this is a duplicate of old-fashioned mac n’ cheese made with half & half, heavy cream and pounds of cheese. It’s definitely not that. It’s something completely different and absolutely delicious in its own way. You won’t believe how comforting it is.
The sauce can be utilized for other things, too! Try adding it to:
- Spaghetti squash (double dose of veggies!)
- Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.
- russet, yukon, red, sweet, etc. potatoes
- Rice, quinoa, millet, etc.
So many options!
If you’re wanting a little extra cheesy goodness, feel free to add more to your liking. You can change up the type of cheese, too! I’m thinking pepper jack, gruyere and parmesan would all be tasty additions!
Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese
adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Yield: 3-4 servings
- 5-6 cups peeled + cubed butternut squash (fresh or frozen)
- 8oz macaroni noodles (3 cups uncooked, gluten-free if needed)
- 1/4 cup diced shallot
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup 2% milk (whole milk, unsweetened almond, or soy)
- 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 – 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- salt + pepper
- Fresh thyme and breadcrumbs (to garnish)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place squash on a large baking sheet and toss with about 1 tablespoon of oil and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.
Once preheated, roast squash for 25-35 minutes, until tender and golden. Flip once or twice while roasting. (Refer to photo #2.)
While roasting, boil a large pot of water and cook noodles according to package instructions. (I find with gluten-free noodles it helps the texture to drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water.) Set noodles aside.
Heat a small pan over medium-low heat with about 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Once hot, place the shallot in the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes until softened. Stir frequently. (If it starts to brown remove from the heat for a minute or so and reduce your heat.)
Add in the garlic and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture is just starting to brown. (Refer to photo #3.)
Once the squash is finished place in a blender with the shallot, garlic, broth, and milk. Add in about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Blend until fully smooth. Taste and add more salt + pepper if needed.
Place cooked noodles back in your large pot and scrape all of the sauce overtop (it will seem like a lot). Turn the heat on medium-low and add the cheese. Stir gently to combine until cheese has melted. Add in a few splashes of milk if needed, as the sauce thickens as it heats. Taste and stir in more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve hot topped with fresh thyme and breadcrumbs.
- If you don’t have fresh or frozen butternut squash feel free to sub 1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree.
- For a vegan option, simply leave out the cheese and use dairy-free milk. It’s still just as delicious!