If you love mac and cheese, but find it a bit too decadent to eat regularly, here’s a recipe that will help make this guilty pleasure a little more nutritious. There’s still cheese, but the base for the sauce is not a milk-based roux. Instead, the foundation of this mac and cheese recipe is a healthy dose of roasted butternut squash. Not only does squash provide mac and cheese’s iconic yellow-orange color, but it also has a creaminess that rivals the real thing and allows you to add less cheese than traditional recipes. Of course, you’re welcome to add as much or as little cheese as you like.
A few notes: You may substitute chicken stock with milk. Skip the butter if you’re looking for a more low-calorie recipe. To bake this mac and cheese, undercook the pasta for another 2 or 3 minutes, and remember to spray the baking dish for easy cleanup. To reheat, add a bit of water, stock, or milk for moisture and gently bring to temperature.
- 2½ lbs butternut squash
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- ¾ cup chicken stock, plus extra
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar-jack cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
- ½ tsp. coriander
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trim off the stem on the butternut squash and cut it in half, lengthwise. Remove pulp and seeds with a spoon. Coat flesh side with oil and generously sprinkle with salt. Place squash on a rimmed cookie sheet, flesh side down, and bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until very tender.
Scoop out about 3 cups of the cooked squash, discard the skin, and mash until smooth by hand or pulse in a food processor. Transfer squash puree to a large saucepan, and add chicken stock (or milk), butter, cheeses, white pepper, and coriander. Heat through on low until the cheese is melted, stirring often and being careful not to scorch the bottom. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
While you are making the sauce, boil salted water to cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta and add it to the squash-cheese sauce. Stir until fully incorporated, adding more chicken stock/milk as needed. Season with freshly cracked pepper before serving.