Creamy and light butternut squash macaroni and cheese even a squash-hater can enjoy

Rarely, if ever, do I make dishes that feature ingredients I both love and loathe. (Love and tolerate, certainly. How do you think the leafy greens get in the house?) Consequently, it took me awhile to work up the nerve to attempt this favorite category of food–the venerable mac and cheese–because it consisted of butternut squash “bechamel.” Icky sticky butternut squash and no cheddar anywhere.What the what?

But I’m on a health-ish kick and this main course promised the creaminess of my favorite comfort food with the added bonus of vegetable puree. So I tried it. And I actually liked it. Not loved. Liked. Still, it’s better than I ever imagined what with all the squash.

It’s truly cheesy and the squash does a fair job mimicking the flavor and color of classic mac. Following the reviews, I increased my sauce quantity for added creaminess and used an immersion blender to simplify and save on dirty dishes.

N.S.F.D. Ranking: **

Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:  

3 cups
 cubed peeled butternut squash 
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken or veggie broth 
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk (someone used part half-and-half, ahem)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3-4 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 pound uncooked cavatappi or other ridged noodles (like penne rigate)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 375°.

    2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and (whole) garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

    3. While your squash is simmering, bring a big pot of water to boil and cook pasta a couple minutes shy of what the package directions say, without salt or fat. You want the noodles al dente since they will cook more in the oven.

    4. When the squash is done cooking, add salt, pepper, cayenne and Greek yogurt. Using an immersion blender, mix until creamy. (Alternatively, you can transfer the squash mix to a blender, just be careful!) 

    5. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl. Stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined. (If your pot is large enough to accommodate the noodles, too, don’t transfer to a large bowl. Just add your noodles to the squash pot and save a dish.)


  • 6. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch dish coated with cooking spray.

    7. Sprinkle casserole evenly with panko and lightly coat with cooking spray. (You can also top with some parmesan if you feel like it.)

    8. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

    Notes:

  • 1. To save time and trouble, buy pre-chopped butternut squash.

    2. This recipe makes a TON. If you are cooking for two, plan to freeze some, or consider cutting the recipe in half (unlike me who ended up eating mac and cheese for a week).

    3. As a squash hater, I could still taste a squashy sweetness that I didn’t exactly care for. Next time, I will amp up my spices–more black pepper and cayenne. Annnnnd, crumbled bacon would probably help.

    4. Do not be alarmed if the casserole looks extra soupy when it goes in the oven. The noodles will suck it all up. In fact, Mr. T complained that the mac wasn’t quite creamy-cheesy enough, so you may consider upping the sauce/noodle ratio by cooking fewer noodles. 

  •  
  • xoxo,
  • shawna

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