I’m not a huge fan of hiding vegetables. The whole idea of covering up vegetables kinda just makes me feel sad. I know, it’s easy for me to say because I was never a picky eater and I’ve never had a child who was a picky eater either. But even if I did, I don’t think I would try to hide vegetables from them.
When I hear people say things like “You can’t even taste the vegetables!” It’s kinda like when teenagers say “you can’t even taste the alcohol!” in their vodka iced teas or whatever.
Obviously it’s better to be on-board with vegetables than to be on-board with the taste of booze, but you get my drift.
But once in awhile a concept comes around that presents itself like a healthier “hidden vegetable” substitution for the real thing, and it turns out that it’s actually better than the real thing.
I feel this way about butternut squash mac and cheese.
Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and butternut squash is your ticket to an easier and arguably better mac and cheese than the original milk-based one.
Butternut squash are made for this. Here are my reasons:
- Butternuts are naturally orange, which is a colour that we often associate with cheesiness (even though orange cheese isn’t naturally orange, it’s dyed with annatto seed).
- They’re SUPER creamy. Just what you need in a creamy cheesy sauce.
- Squash (especially roasted butternut squash) have a delightful sweet flavour that works perfectly against the flavour of tangy cheese.
I’d say that mac n cheese is a great way to celebrate the butternut!
I love this recipe because it’s easier and more hands-off than a standard white sauce, AND, it doesn’t congeal into a cheesy dense block in the fridge if you keep it overnight. It stays creamy!
For my version I use a stovetop method and opt NOT to bake it in the oven. Instead, I like to achieve my crispy topping by toasting some fresh bread crumbs in a dry cast iron pan until they’re crispy. Even better if you season the bread crumbs with salt and black pepper and add in some Parmesan after they cool slightly.
How to make butternut squash mac and cheese
The method for this lovely healthyish dinner is simple. Preheat the oven to 375 (or 400 if you want more browning), Toss the butternut squash and onion in some olive oil and salt, and roast for about 25 minutes or until tender.
Cook your pasta until al dente, and set it aside while you finish your sauce.
The sauce can be made in a food processor or blender. I used a Vitamix because I just got one and I’m really excited about it. It also makes the smoothest sauces in the land.
Blend up the squash, onion, some cheese – I like a combination of gruyere, cheddar cheese, and Parmesan, and a few tablespoons of cream cheese or butter. Use enough cooking liquid to thin out the sauce just right, then toss the cooked pasta with the sauce.
This could easily be made gluten free if you choose some gf noodles, and if you go that route, you can sub out the bread crumbs with salt and pepper seasoned ground almonds. (ok get some cheese in there too).
If you do decide to bake your butternut macaroni and cheese to get a crispy melty cheesy top, I’d recommend that you not bake it for more than 15 minutes or you’ll risk it drying out.
Butternut Squash Mac And CheeseCourse: DinnerCuisine: ComfortDifficulty: Easy
1 medium butternut squash, approx 800 grams
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt + more to taste
450 grams (1 lb) dry pasta
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp cream cheese or butter
150 grams grated cheese. I like a blend of swiss and cheddar
250-500 ml Pasta water as needed
Toasted Bread crumbs, optional
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Peel and chop the squash and onion, toss with olive oil and 2 tsp salt, and roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender.
- While the squash is roasting, cook your pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and reserve the cooking water. Set the pasta aside.
- Once the squash and onion are tender, transfer them to your blender or food processer and add the cheeses, mustard, spices, and 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Blend, and add more cooking water as needed until the sauce forms a creamy consistency.
- Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and stir to combine.
- Serve with crispy bread crumbs and whatever condiments your heart desires. For me, it’s hot sauce, black pepper, and ketchup. No shame.
- If you have added too much of the pasta cooking liquid and your sauce is too thin, turn it into a baked mac and cheese! It’ll thicken up in the oven.