Mac and Cheese, the comfort food everyone loves with a healthy twist, thanks to butternut squash!
Comfort food is essential to getting through the fall and winter months. I too have recipes I indulge in, like potatoes au gratin, broccoli cheddar soup, pumpkin pie and of course mac and cheese. In moderation I believe we all have to have a treat now and then, but it’s wonderful when I find a recipe that mimics a classic dish and doesn’t sacrifice flavor. This mac and cheese hits the mark! The flavor is strikingly similar, as well as color and consistency in this healthier mac and cheese recipe. The sweetness of butternut squash mixed with about half the traditional amount of cheese is a match made in heaven. Butternut squash also has a similar color to cheddar making it easy to hide veggies in for the unsuspecting kid or family member.
Behind the Mac and Cheese
It’s hard for me to explain my love for cooking and sharing sometimes. The question can catch me off guard, as if you should understand just by looking at one of my photos or recipes. I share my recipes to spread my love for cooking healthy food with others, hoping that you will also love it. It’s an added bonus if it inspired you to get on the road to better health!
I took these photos as fast as I could get them plated after getting home from work and trying to beat the rain in the forecast on an October day. Time is fleeting and I don’t take no for an answer after I’ve scheduled time and prepared for a food photoshoot, because who knows when I can reschedule myself to do it in the next week. It has to happen right now, I tell myself. So as the mist rolled in and quickly turned into rain I feverishly took these photos, outside. I wish someone could have taken a video of me whipping open the front door in and out to get all of my gear and food out, without breaking/spilling/tripping over anything! The passion I have for food and blogging is somewhere in the tiny mist drops sprinkled all over the photos that you wouldn’t notice unless I said something, and now you will, but I made it happen. Rain and dusk you have no hold on me!
To make the “cheese” sauce, you don’t need a fancy tool. Any old blender or masher will do. I used my food processor, but any blender will be able to mash cooked veggies. Peel your butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Then chop the butternut squash in half. Scoop out any seeds and guts from the round center. Chop into about 1 inch pieces and place in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Strain the butternut squash, reserving 1/2 cup of the water and add to the sauce. In your blender add the butternut squash or mash with a hand masher. Then add the spices, onions, butter and reserved cooking water. I recommend leaving the blender on for at least a minute to get everything to mix fully. Lastly mix with pasta and cheese. Simple right?
Since this recipe is already packed with veggie goodness I opted for whole wheat pasta. However, there are tons of gluten-free and vegetable based noodles on the market these days, if that’s what you are looking for. One of my favorite is Banza chickpea noodles, which are packed with protein and still have a similar taste and texture to traditional pasta. De Cecco brand whole wheat pasta, is what I used in this recipe.
Butternut squash is on sale in the fall (Aldi .79 cents a pound!), and the rest of the ingredients are commonly found in any grocery store for a minimal cost. This recipe doesn’t need much doctoring up. Its good just the way it is with only 4 main ingredients.
Why is butternut squash healthier?
Butternut squash has more potassium in one cup that eating a banana! It’s also loaded with vitamin A, B6, C and magnesium. I kept some cheese in the recipe because it wouldn’t be mac and CHEESE without it. You could substitute with a non-dairy cheese if you need to. Get your energy in this recipe to help you feel good and work toward your healthy eating goals!
Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 Small-Medium Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped
- 1 Box of Fusilli or Elbow Pasta
- ½ cup Onion, chopped
- ½ tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1½ Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 1 Tbsp. Butter
- ½ tsp Salt
- In a 5-quart cooking pot, fill about half way with water and bring to a boil.
- Prepare butternut squash by pealing the skin with a vegetable peeler. Then chop in half and spoon out seeds. Then chop into ½ inch to 1 inch size pieces.
- Add to boiling pot of water and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
- Stab pieces of the squash with a fork to check if the butternut squash is cooked.
- While butternut squash is cooking, in a small sauce pan, add olive oil and onions. Cook on medium heat for 7 minutes.
- Cook pasta as directed on package.
- When butternut squash is done, strain reserving ½ cup of water.
- Mix cheese sauce together - in a food processor, blender or mixer, add butternut squash, ½ cup of water, sauteed onions, butter, salt and garlic.
- Blend on medium for about 1 minute, until the mix is a smooth consistency.
- In a large bowl or serving dish, add cooked pasta and butternut squash mix.
- Add cheddar cheese and stir till mixed well.
Enjoy and let food be your energy! #blessup