I love mac and cheese but it can be so rich! Everything is fine in moderation but sometimes you want a bigger portion without the guilt! My healthier version uses butternut squash cooked with onions, garlic a few fragrant bay leaves and chicken stock. Blend it up with a bit of milk and you have a GREAT starter sauce!
I added some really flavorful aged gouda and pecorino romano to the mix then topped with some super crunchy fried breadcrumbs and it’s just about perfect!
Pro Tips for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- You can make the sauce up to three days in advance and store in a bowl. Mix with cooked pasta then transfer to a baking dish and top with toasted bread crumbs and cheese to bake.
- For a vegetarian version use veggie stock to cook the squash.
- Switch things up and add any of your favorite cheeses to this dish.
- The toasted bread crumbs are little flavor bombs so do your best to avoid skipping them! A little butter and salt goes a long way with this topping.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mac n cheese healthy?
Traditionally a mac and cheese starts out with a creamy bechamel sauce to which you add cheese, cheese and more cheese. Totally delicious but not healthy!! You can check out my all out, don’t look at the calories mac and cheese here.
This butternut squash based recipe is MUCH healthier and, dare I say, more flavorful!
How do you dice butternut squash?
- Use a large sharp knife to remove the top and bottom of the squash.
- Place the squash right side up so it rests on the bottom and trim the sides to remove the skin.
- Cut in half length-wise and remove the seeds with a spoon.
- Cut the squash into slices and then cubes of the desired size.
What tastes good with butternut?
The subtle taste of butternut squash lends itself to many different flavors. In this recipe it adds a healthy creaminess and substance to the cheesy sauce. Check out the following recipe for some of my favorite butternut squash pairings.
How to Fry Breadcrumbs
- Take 3-4 slices of bread and remove crusts, chop bread into small pieces. You can also crumble with your fingers.
- Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat.
- Add the breadcrumbs and season with salt, pepper and even a little thyme if you’d like.
- Move around pan and cook until GOLDEN brown.
- Transfer to a bowl and set aside. You can mix in some parmesan if you’t like as well.
How to make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
1. Start off by cutting your butternut squash in half. Use a sharp knife and confidence. Don’t let your fingers get in the way of the blade.
2. Use a large a spoon to scoop out the seeds and soft tissue so it’s nice and smooth.
3. Cut off the outer skin with a knife, dice the squash into small cubes, then chop up your onion.
4. Mince the garlic by smashing it with your knife first and chopping it up. Smashing it helps remove the skins and releases the oils inside the garlic.
5. In a large pot over medium heat, pour in your chopped up onions and sauté them with the bay leaves until translucent.
6. Add the garlic to the pot and cook on medium, stirring frequently until golden.
7. You can add a desired amount of white pepper, curry powder, salt and cracked red pepper. Now add in the butternut squash.
8. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and cook until the squash is tender. Once done, go ahead and drain it, reserving ½ cup of broth. Remove the bay leaves and transfer to the blender.
9. Add the milk, nutmeg, broth, and puree until completely smooth and creamy. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Cook the pasta in salted water, once done, drain and set it aside.
10. Pour the pureed sauce over the cooked pasta. I used conchiglie but macaroni is a classic for good reason!
11. Add the cheese and stir it so it’s nice and melted. If you need to add milk to adjust the consistency, go ahead.
12. You can garnish your mac and cheese with parsley or do a toasted breadcrumb top. I did both!
If you’ve tried this butternut squash mac and cheese recipe then don’t forget to leave a rating and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 butternut squash large to extra large
- 1 onion white medium
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup whole milk 180mL
- 1 quart chicken broth 946mL
- ¼ tsp white pepper .25g
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg .50g
- 1 cup Gruyère shredded, 108g
- 1/4 cup Pecorino romano shredded, 25g
- 1 pound Conchiglie Pasta
For the Toasted Breadcrumbs:
- 4 slices white bread
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
- 2 tbsp parmesan grated
- Cut the butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and cut off the outer skin. Dice up into cubes. Chop onion. mince garlic.
- In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and bay leaves until translucent, add garlic and cook on medium low until golden, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add in butternut squash. Pour the stock into the pot. Bring to a boil and cook until tender.
- Drain squash, reserving 1/2 cup broth. Remove the bay leaves and transfer squash mixture to the blender. Add the milk, nutmeg, and reserved broth and puree until completely smooth and creamy. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Cook pasta in salted water, drain, transfer to a large bowl and set aside. I used a pound of Conchiglie pasta but macaroni works great too!
- To make toasted breadcrumbs: Take 3-4 slices of bread and remove crusts, chop bread into small pieces or crumble with your fingers. Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and season with salt, pepper and even a little thyme if you'd like. Move around pan and cook until GOLDEN brown then transfer to a bowl and set aside. For a some extra flavor I like to add two tablespoons of parmesan while the breadcrumbs are cooking.
- Pour the pureed sauce over the cooked pasta and add the cheese. Stir to melt the cheese; if needed add milk to adjust consistency. Transfer to a baking dish.
- You can top your mac and cheese with toasted breadcrumbs then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
- Once done, garnish with parsley, and enjoy!