Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is made with a delectable, creamy butternut squash sauce with crispy panko and sage topping. This unique mac and cheese is both crave worthy AND nutritious.
My amazing older sibling is 100% responsible for raising my standards for the perfect baked mac and cheese. He had it down to a science and managed to always make the ingredients all gather in harmony without being too cheesy, liquid-y, or dry. This is what makes or breaks a truly impressionable mac and cheese.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Ingredients
* Get the full recipe below
- pasta (I used campanelle, but any shell will work)
- cubed butternut squash
- cream cheese
- half and half
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- jack cheese
- 1% milk
- panko bread crumbs
- cup walnuts
- sage leaves
The secret to this hidden veggie sauce is butternut squash. It replaces a good portion of cream AND cheese found in traditional baked mac and cheese.
How to cook pasta for baked mac and cheese
al dente. Period.
I highly recommend you undercook the noodles juuuust enough so they'll finish cooking in the final bake.
The sauce-to-noodle ratio: remember this when you're making baked mac and cheese.
Liquid that gets cooked has two destinations:
- 1. it gets absorbed by the noodles
- 2. evaporation
In this recipe, I had them both in my corner and nailed the proper consistency...finally!
I know, this sounds a bit science-ey, but it worked and I'm going with it!
What do you put on top of baked mac and cheese?
The toppings are the deal-maker for me when it comes to baked mac and cheese!
I used panko bread crumbs, finely chopped walnuts, and butter-fried sage leaves.
Somehow I managed to NOT eat all of the leaves before using them in this dish. They're that good!
How to make browned butter sage topping
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 8-12 Sage Leaves
In a skillet on medium heat, add BUTTER and heat until it releases a nutty fragrance (2-3 minutes).
Add SAGE LEAVES and sauté about 1 minute, enough to crisp but not burn; remove leaves and place on a paper towel.
- conventional oven (or countertop oven)
- skillet (to cook sage leaves)
- 3.5 quart sauce pot (to boil pasta)
- colander (to rinse pasta)
- potato masher (to mash cooked squash)
- 10.5 x 7 baking dish
Grab these healthy holiday recipes!
Make my No Cook Cranberry Pomegranate Relish to serve atop warm, brie cheese with bread or crackers.
For a healthy spin on a traditional recipe that's uniquely healthy, try my I Can't Believe Its' Vegan! Green Bean Casserole.
Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 3 cups Campanelle Pasta or any shell pasta
- 3 cups Butternut Squash 1.5 lb squash peeled, cubed
- 4 oz Cream Cheese softened
- 1/3 cup Half and Half
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- pinch Nutmeg
- 3/4 cup Monterey Jack Cheese shredded
- 3/4 cup 1% Milk
- 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1/4 cup Walnuts finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 10 fresh Sage Leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°
Boil the pasta
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, but leave slightly undercooked (al dente); drain pasta, saving al of the cooking water; set aside.
For the sauce:
- Return the pasta water back to the saucepot over high heat.
- To the water, carefully add raw BUTTERNUT SQUASH; boil until it's fork-tender (about 10 min).
- Remove from heat and drain cooked SQUASH in a colander; return cooked squash to the empty sauce pot.
- To the squash, add CREAM CHEESE, HALF AND HALF, SALT, PEPPER, and NUTMEG; use a potato masher to mash and combine ingredients, creating a semi-smooth texture.
- Stir in CHEESE and MILK; continue heating and stirring until well-combined.
For the mac and cheese casserole
- Fold cooked NOODLES into sauce; pour into a prepared 10.5" x 7" baking dish; sprinkle more JACK CHEESE over the surface; then distribute PANKO BREAD CRUMBS, WALNUTS, and FRIED SAGE over the entire surface.
- Bake uncovered 20-30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and top is golden brown; carefully remove, cool for 10 minutes; serve warm, garnished with crispy sage pieces scattered on the surface.
For the crispy sage topping
- In a skillet on med-high heat, melt BUTTER; add SAGE LEAVES to the skillet and fry until crispy and slightly browned (1-3 minutes). Remove and transfer to a plate to cool