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.
Everyone needs a recipe for perfectly baked butternut squash mac and cheese. It needs to have the right ratio of cheese to sauce to noodles. It can't be too wet, or too dry. This is what will make or break one's impression of mac and cheese – and ultimately decides if it will ever get made again. This recipe understands the assignment every single time.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Ingredients
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- 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
I highly recommend you cook the noodles al dente, slightly tender, which is just enough because 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.
Looking for more vegetarian pasta recipes? You'll enjoy these:
If you're enjoying this recipe for a holiday meal, grab these other delicious ideas!
- Vegan Green Bean Casserole
- No Cook Cranberry Pomegranate Relish
- Arugula Sweet Potato Salad
- Brussels Sprout Slaw
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 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
- ⅓ cup Half and Half
- 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- pinch Nutmeg
- ¾ cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
- ¾ cup 1% Milk
- ½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- ¼ cup Walnuts, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 10 fresh Sage Leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
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
- oven or air fryer oven
- 11 inch skillet
- baking dish 10 x 7
Nutrition data provided as courtesy estimates using unbranded ingredients from a nutrition database. Please consult preferred resource for precise data.