In my Skinny Cheese Enchiladas recipe, I discuss my love for cheese. I have no shame for my feelings towards cheese. I believe cheese makes almost anything tastier. Well, as you can imagine, I love incorporating cheese where I can in my recipes. There is one fault with cheese. Yes, I know, how can cheese have a fault? Calories. Most cheeses are high in calories. To combat this, I like using very strong cheeses so I don’t have to use as much. This brings me to today’s recipe: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese.
OK, so this isn’t truly a mac and cheese because it lacks the macaroni. It’s more of a penne and cheese. Don’t shoot me for calling it mac and cheese. I call any short noodle with cheese mac and cheese. If it makes you happy, use macaroni instead of penne. Any noodle will work fabulously in this recipe.
You may be wondering why there’s butternut squash in this mac and cheese recipe. The butternut squash adds a creamy richness you can’t even imagine. I have no idea how I’ve gone this long without adding butternut squash to mac and cheese. It takes the sauce for this mac and cheese above and beyond any other cheese sauce I’ve had. There is a slight hint of sweetness from the squash, but when it mixes with the cheese and cream, it turns into a wonderful thing. This will be my go to mac and cheese for a long time to come.
This recipe is pretty easy to follow, and not a lot of work is required to make it successful. You will need to boil the pasta before starting the recipe, or if your stove top allows it, boil the pasta while you are cooking the squash. I have a small stove top, so I prepared the pasta before starting the recipe. The first step is to place 4 cups of peeled and cubed butternut squash into a large pot with 2 cups vegetable broth. I bought these little cubes of butternut squash at Walmart in the cold produce section. You can cube and peel your own of course. I really like the convenience of these cubes though. Bring the squash and broth to a boil; then, reduce to simmering for 20 to 25 minutes until the squash is tender.
When the squash is tender, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the milk, Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is combined. You can puree this with an immersion blender, food processor, or blend it in small batches with a blender (this is method I used, and it worked very well). You want the butternut squash to blend with the liquid until smooth. Once you have finished pureeing, stir in the extra sharp white cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan and Romano mixture. Stir in the cheeses until everything is smooth, and there are no clumps of cheese.
Once the cheese sauce is smooth, gently add the pasta to the sauce. I used a silicone spatula to gently fold the noodles into the sauce so they didn’t break. The sauce may look very liquid and loose. However, the sauce firms up and bakes very well in the oven, so don’t be concerned if it looks like there is too much sauce or it is watery. Pour the sauce and noodles into a prepared 13×9 pan. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. When it has finished baking, remove from the oven and sprinkle the other 1/2 cup Parmesan and Romano blend over top of the noodles. Turn the oven to broil. Place the mac and cheese under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown and some of the noodles have become crispy (about 3 to 5 minutes). Remove after mac and cheese is broiled.
This butternut squash mac and cheese is delicious. I had some reservations a couple times about it. I thought the butternut squash would make it taste weird. I also worried the cheese sauce was too thin. I was wrong both times. This is an amazing mac and cheese. I’ve had it for dinner and lunch twice this week. It reheats like a champ, and it seems to taste better each time I have it. It is melty, cheesy, and rich. The bonus is the low calories. It isn’t loaded with calories, and it is very filling. It tastes like it should be double the calories. I will make this again and again. Maybe next time I will actually use macaroni!
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Total calories: 2,819
Servings: 8+ portions
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 ½ cups 1% milk (can use any milk you’d like)
- ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan and Romano cheese blend, split into ½ cups
- 1 box (1lb) noodles, cooked al dente (I used penne, but you can use whatever noodle you’d like)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 13×9 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large pot, combine butternut squash and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until the squash is tender.
- Remove mixture from heat and stir in milk, Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper. Puree with a blender, food processor, or immersion blender until smooth. Stir in extra sharp cheddar cheese and ½ cup Parmesan cheese blend until smooth and melted.
- Fold in cooked pasta and stir until combined. Pour everything into the 13×9. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. Remove from oven and turn on broil.
- Sprinkle the remaining ½ Parmesan and Romano cheese blend over the top of the mac and cheese. Return back to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the top is golden brown and some of the noodles are crisp.
I cooked my pasta first because I have one large burner and three small burners on my stovetop. You can cook your pasta while the butternut squash is boiling I your stove top can handle it. Making the pasta beforehand didn’t result in it being chewy or gummy. You can add in Gruyere cheese to this recipe as well. Gruyere would melt well into the sauce and pasta.
2 cups chicken broth for 2 cups vegetable broth