Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a healthy-ish holiday side dish. Campanelle pasta is tossed in a butternut squash sauce, made with 1% milk, a lighter cream cheese, a little Monterey Jack, topped with panko bread crumbs and a sage brown butter. It’s kind of like a hidden veggie mac and cheese because the squash is nearly undetectable as it’s blended with the other ingredients.
Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Some years ago, my amazing, older brother, Kevin, set the tone for the perfect baked mac and cheese.
He had the ratios down to a science…and made the ingredients all gather in harmony without being too cheesy, liquid-y, or dry. How’d he do that?!?!
That science is what makes or breaks the impressionable mac and cheeses of the world.
He had it down.
I’ve tried to make it like him, but to no avail.
But then, at Thanksgiving a few years ago, something magical happened.
The magic was in the butternut squash.
I started my sauce base with butternut squash, and it gave it a creamy boost before adding any fat.
So, the squash replaced a good portion of cream AND cheese found in traditional baked mac and cheese.
Not only did I nail the consistency with this method, I made it healthier-ish.
How do you cook pasta for baked butternut squash 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
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!
Here’s how to make sage brown butter
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.
Ingredients I use for Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese:
- pasta (I used campanelle, but any shell will work)
- cubed butternut squash
- cream cheese
- half and half
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- monterey jack
- 1% milk
- panko bread crumbs
- cup walnuts
- fried sage leaves (see recipe above)
Kitchen tools I use to make this recipe:
- 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…that are actually healthy!
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.
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