Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese combines all the wonderful fall flavors of roasted squash, sage, and onion with the comforts of pasta and cheese.
I'm kind of sad that I didn't start liking winter squash until well into my thirties. I feel like I missed out on an entirely delectable during my first three decades. I'm also a bit sad that my kids and husband don't like butternut squash as well. No. Wait. I kind of like the fact that they don't like it because when I make a batch of something like this butternut mac n cheese, I know I get to eat the entire thing. And eat the entire thing, I shall.
Everything about fall makes me giddy. The cool nights, the changing color of the leaves, the upcoming holidays, and all of the roasted squash. I might certifiably be a roasted squash addict.
I like to convince myself into thinking that by adding a healthy food like butternut squash into a rich and decadent mac n cheese made with starch and carb filled pasta, cheddar cheese, and butter... lots of butter... that I am actually eating a meal that's healthy. Yeah. Let's go with that.
Now, I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe as inspiration, but she left out three very crucial ingredients, in my opinion. Without these three magic ingredients, I really feel like this dish would be rather bland. What are these magic three ingredients, you must be thinking? First - fresh sage. I actually kind of despise the smell of fresh sage, but when its cut into super thin ribbons and crisped up in butter - mercy. Second - nutmeg, and not the kind you sprinkle from a 20 year old spice jar. I'm talking freshly ground nutmeg. You won't regret it. Both sage and nutmeg should be paired with butternut squash ALWAYS. Third - garlic. I've been splurging at the farmer's market on really good quality garlic. It is worth every penny. Mark my words. I almost skipped the crumb topping and just dug right into the mac n cheese as soon as I mixed in the sauce, but I'm so glad that I went the extra mile. Not only did that crumb topping add the texture this dish needed, but I'm never going to pass on a little extra butter, garlic, and herbs!
Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese
- ½ butternut squash (seeds removed)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces pasta
- 8 tablespoons butter (divided)
- 1 onion (sliced)
- 12 fresh thinly sliced sage leaves (divided)
- 4 cloves minced garlic (divided)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- Cover the flesh of the squash with the olive oil and roast in a 425 degree F oven until very tender, 45 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool enough to remove the skin and mash the flesh. This can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Cook and drain pasta. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add onion and about 8 of the thinly sliced sage leaves. Start out with the heat on high and gradually reduce as the onions cook to allow them to brown without burning. A few minutes before they're done, add half of the garlic, stir, and allow to cook to golden brown.
- Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pot, melt another 2 tablespoons of butter with the flour. Allow to cook over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant. Whisk in the milk and add the nutmeg. Continue to mix until the mixture bubbles and forms a gravy. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheddar and the mashed squash along with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Add the cooked pasta as well as the squash cheese sauce to the onion mixture and stir well to combine.
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and combine with the bread crumbs and the remaining sage, garlic, and salt. Sprinkle crumb mixture on top of the pasta mixture.
- Cook in 400 degree F oven until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
This post first appeared over at Real Housemoms where I used to be a contributor.