butternut squash mac n' cheese

rich, creamy & scrumptious.  this butternut squash mac n' cheese tastes like the classic dish, but packs healthy goodness in every bite!

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when i was a kid, mac n 'cheese was the real deal.  no boxed nonsense, no bowls of noodles with cheese melted into it (although that is amazing, one of our fave things and super duper speedy).  when my mom made mac n cheese it was the classic: elbow noodles coated in a rich cheese-infused bechamel sauce, topped with wheat germ, sprinkled with paprika and baked until bubbly and golden.  the ultimate 'comfort food', as they say.  

in our house, we tend to lean toward the simplicity of cheesy noodles.  i.e. a big bowl of pasta - any shape will do - with cheese melted into it.  basic & totally hits the spot.  but it is not, and in no way pretends to be a proper substitute for the baked, slow-cooked goodness of the traditional dish.  

so how does this butternut squash mac n' cheese fit in?  well, we all know that traditional mac n' cheese isn't exactly the healthiest dish.  also that one of the easiest ways to get kids to eat their veggies is to disguise them as/in something else.  luckily this dish happens to do that, while tasting exactly like the classic but being about a zillion times healthier - and richer tasting, if you can believe it!  bonus - it is very easy and quick to prepare - no baking required!

the foundation of butternut squash mac n' cheese is - you guessed it - butternut squash.  i love love LOVE the stuff!!!  it has that sweet, creamy, slightly nutty quality that makes it perfect for so many amazing dishes.  and since classic mac n' cheese is slightly sweet, nutty & very creamy, it works perfectly in this dish.  

when a recipe uses minimal ingredients, it is key that every one helps to build the flavors of the dish.  this recipe incorporates the deeply sweet flavor of caramelized onions with the creamy richness of pureed butternut squash.  stir in a bit of veggie stock, a spoon of cottage cheese & a bit of sharp cheddar and voila!  you've created the sauce!  stir in cooked pasta and serve it up.  

make this dish when that mac n cheese craving hits and you'll be forking up creamy, cheesy, comforting goodness in under an hour.  sorry classic mac, this one has you beat. 

recipe: butternut squash mac n' cheese

ingredients:

  • 1/2 box pasta - any short shape
  • 3 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/2c veggie broth
  • 1/4 c cottage cheese
  • 1/3 c cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • apple, for serving - optional

method:

  1. put the squash in a medium saucepan, cover with water & cook over medium heat until the squash is very tender - 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. when the squash is cooked, drain out all of the liquid and mash it until smooth (a fork works well!).
  3. cook the pasta according to package directions
  4. while the squash & pasta are cooking, heat the butter & oil on low heat in a saucepan.
  5. add the onion & a pinch of salt.  cover and cook on low until the onion becomes translucent, about 3 - 5 minutes.  remove lid & continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes more.
  6. when the onion is golden and caramelized, add the squash & 1/4 c veggie stock to the pan, stirring to combine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  7. add enough veggie stock to the pan to create a sauce-like consistency.  you want the butternut mixture to be thinner than a soup, but not so thin that it won't stick to the pasta.  
  8. season with salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste.
  9. when the pasta is cooked, add it to the butternut sauce, along with the cottage and cheddar cheese
  10. stir to combine, cover and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes.  
  11. shut off the heat and let the pot sit on the burner, covered for another 3 to 5 minutes.  this is allowing the cheese to fully melt!
  12. when the time is up, remove the lid, stir to fully combine & serve!
  13. enjoy!