The Little Epicurean

Nov 07 2014

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

I started off believing I was going to make a healthy mac and cheese alternative.  Butternut squash mac and cheese sounds healthy, but it’s really not.   I admit failure.  This recipe still has a plenty of cheese, but at least you get that added nutrients from the butternut squash.

Hey, I tried.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

So it may not be as healthy as I had intended, but it tastes awesome!  I’m going call this my autumn mac and cheese.  To slightly cut back on cheese, I roasted butternut squash and onion and then pureed it.  The sweet and savory puree brings another dimension of umami to this dish.  While traditional mac and cheese uses cheddar, I combined cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan.  You still get the familiar cheddar profile, but it is complemented with the light creamy mozzarella and the salty parmesan.  Like I said, it’s umami heaven.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

I don’t like béchamel or any kind of sauce that requires I make a roux.  It is a pain in the butt.  It needs constant attention.  If the béchamel is too hot when you add the cheese, the fat from the cheese may separate.  If the béchamel is too cold, the cheese won’t melt.  And there is always that chance that the sauce may be grainy.  Let’s remove béchamel from mac and cheese!

Instead of a roux, my butternut squash-onion puree helps to thicken this mac and cheese.  Since I’m baking it in the oven, no need to melt the cheese ahead of time.  Simply mix together the pasta, puree, and cheese and let the oven do the work.  Easy peasy cheesy.

And because there isn’t a roux, you can make this gluten-free by using quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta, and the sort.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

So what if this isn’t your typical mac and cheese?  It’s creamy, cheesy, and delicious!  I didn’t tell Alex that this was butternut squash mac and cheese.  But he knew something was up.  He quietly ate his little red bowl of pasta trying to figure out why this batch was so different.  When I finally told him of the added squash, he nodded and reached for a second bowl.

butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese-4

Print Recipe

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut squash mac and cheese is the quintessential autumn pasta dish. Thickened with a roasted butternut squash and onion puree, this dish is magically sweet and savory!

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 13 oz butternut squash, sliced into small cubes
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz penne, or pasta of choice
  • 1/2 cup reserved cooking pasta water
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • additional shredded cheese of choice for topping
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place butternut squash and onions on baking sheet.  Toss in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir contents around to ensure even cooking.  Bake for another 15 minutes until squash can be easily pierced with a fork.  Allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook one minute under al dente according to package instructions.  Save about 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water before straining cooked pasta.
  3. Place cooked butternut squash and onion in a blender (food processor or immersion blenders also works) with melted butter and 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water.  Puree until smooth.  Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary.
  4. Place drained pasta in a large bowl.  Add butternut-onion puree and all three cheeses.  Fold to combine.  If mixture is a bit dry, add 1 tablespoon of reserved pasta water at a time.  Divide pasta between serving bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese on top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes in 400 degree F oven until cheese has melted and begins to brown.  Let sit for 5 minutes to slightly cool before serving.

The Little Epicurean

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

   

11 Responses to “Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese”

  1. November 7, 2014
    6:26 am

    I made something very similar to this not too long ago! Butternut squash is perfect in mac and cheese. I love how you pureed it and incorporated it into the sauce. Pinning!

    • Maryanne Cabrera replied...

      Thanks Jen! I thought I’d have to use less cheese with the butternut puree, but that wasn’t the case! ;)

  2. November 7, 2014
    6:28 am

    OK, I totally know what you mean about adding healthy ingredients and being like “Hey guys it’s healthy!!!…. Wait… Just kidding…” Regardless, this autumn mac looks fantastic in all its cheesy goodness!

  3. November 7, 2014
    10:44 am

    I totally love this as an extra flavor option! (I never go for ‘healthy’ mac and cheese anyhow, even when I pretend I’m going to. :))

    • Maryanne Cabrera replied...

      I’m beginning to think “healthy” mac and cheese doesn’t really exist. Although, I do have fun trying :)

  4. November 7, 2014
    6:59 pm

    This mac and cheese looks unreal! I so would love a bowl!

  5. November 10, 2014
    10:02 pm

    Heyyyyy twin – I have squash mac and cheese coming up soon too! I LOVE your version without the roux. I’d reach for a second red bowl too.

  6. November 12, 2014
    11:41 am
    CheeseSticks says...

    I really like the combinations of cheeses with butternut squash and onion. It sounds delicious – I can’t wait to try this one.

  7. November 14, 2014
    12:01 am
    Shelley Nicole says...

    I’ve never found bechemel too challenging… roux is a good thing to learn and a useful tool in the kitchen. why shy away? if it’s gluten intolerance, i can point you to a variety of GF flours that would work great to start a roux. every cook should learn, love, and know bechemel.

Leave a Comment