Mac and cheese is a kids favorite everywhere. It’s quite easy to make if you use the prepared kits from the grocery store, but it’s not healthy. I’d much rather serve my children this healthy butternut squash mac and cheese I came up with after tasting my friend’s version.
One fall day I arrived at my friends house to find her and her kids eating baked macaroni and cheese. My son and I, of course, sat down to help ourselves. It was delicious! I probably ate 3 helpings of the mac and cheese.
When our kids were done eating and ran off to play she whispered, its healthy butternut squash macaroni and cheese!
I had never heard of this phenomenon before, but she explained that she had cooked it with butternut squash, and her kids were getting their vegetables and didn’t even know it. I asked for the recipe, and left her house without it. But have no fear, I made my own recipe, and it may be even better.
Healthy Butternut Squash Mac And Cheese
In this mac ‘n cheese recipe, not only is squash a secret ingredient, but I also added Gruyere cheese, one of the best baking cheeses around.
Gruyere cheese is also great for melting, used in fondue, and maybe in the layer of cheese in your french onion soup. It is slightly salty and has an earthy flavor that pairs well with the squash, and a perfect addition to standard macaroni and cheese recipes.
In this recipe I used prepackaged squash to save time, but if you have some growing in your garden you are absolutely able to used that. Just peel your squash, cut it in half length wise, take out the seeds, and chop up the rest into cubes.
My family has been eating this mac ‘n cheese for a few years now and has never known that every time they were getting seconds and thirds, they were also getting a lot of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and even protein from the hidden squash inside.
I’m always looking for comfort food, that my family can eat without the guilt of empty calories. This recipe becomes even more healthy by using whole grain pasta. I hope your family loves it just as much as mine does. Enjoy!
- Cooking spray
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter ((½ stick) )
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I like Manischewitz All Natural Vegetable Broth)
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 10 dashes hot sauce
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
- 1 pack 10-ounce frozen butternut or winter squash (thawed)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb. pasta (spiral, elbow, or similar ) (cooked al dente and drained well)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Combine 1 cup of the cheddar, the panko, Parmesan, and thyme in a small container
- To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk constantly until smooth and melty, about 5 minutes. In a slow, steady stream, pour in the milk, then the broth, whisking constantly. Add the dry mustard, paprika, garlic powder, and hot sauce. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Temper the egg by slowly whisking in ¼ cup of the warm sauce. Add the egg mixture to the sauce and whisk. Add the remaining 2 cups cheddar and the Gruyère and whisk to melt and form a thick cheese sauce. Remove from the heat. Stir in the squash until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to coat well.
- Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheddar-panko mixture over the pasta. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Variation – Butternut Squash Mac ’n’ Cheese Muffin Cups
Spoon the mac into muffin tins lined with lightly greased cupcake papers (or, better yet, use these reusable silicone baking cups)and sprinkle with panko topping if desired.
Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Easy to eat – no utensils required 😉