This Butternut Squash Baked Mac and Cheese is a must-share during the holiday season. I think of it as a big hoorah before I kick carbs to the curb for the new year. I can’t call it healthy, but it has certain ingredients that actually make it a better choice than a traditional, cream-based mac and cheese.
Butternut Squash Baked 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.
Butternut squash happened.
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 right consistency with this method, I made it healthier.
My brother’s secret wasn’t butternut squash, oh but mine is. Except it’s totally not a secret.
How do you 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:
- 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 sound 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 toppppings! They’re the deal-sealer! For this dish, I use panko bread crumbs, finely chopped walnuts, and butter-fried sage leaves. Wait. Whaaaaat?!
How do you fry sage leaves?
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.
Here is the complete list of ingredients I use for this recipe:
- 3 cups Pasta Noodles
- 3 cups Butternut Squash or 1.5 lbs whole squash, cubed
- 4 oz less-fat cream cheese
- 1/3 cup half and half
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 cup monterey jack
- 3/4 cup 1% milk
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- fried sage leaves (see recipe above)
Here are the 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.