Creamy, cheesy butternut squash macaroni is a healthier version of the typical macaroni and cheese, but just as delicious…if not, more! Silky smooth butternut and cheese sauce is combined with macaroni and topped with breadcrumbs and a little extra cheese to add some crunch.
EASY BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
Macaroni and cheese is right up there with chicken noodles soup when it comes to my favorite comfort food recipes. It’s one of those foods that I crave when I’m stuck in bed with a cold. For a brief moment, it makes you forget all the sick feels because of all the warm, cheesy goodness.
This recipe can easily be made in under 30 minutes and there are tons of variations you can employ to change the nutrients, how much it costs, or how long it takes to make!
STOVETOP OR BAKED CHEESY MACARONI
Depending on how much time you have, this recipe can be made on the stovetop OR baked. I make this stovetop all the time, when I don’t have the extra time or breadcrumbs, it is just as delicious!
STOVETOP. Simply use the whole box of macaroni or cavatapi instead of shorting a couple ounces. Then you can skip the baking dish and bread crumbs and just sprinkle a little parmesan on top of the macaroni right in the bowl.
BAKED. For the baked version, you won’t need as much pasta or it will end up pretty dry after baking. I like to cook the whole box of pasta, then take about 1-2 cups out and save it for my little one’s lunches. Then pour the sauce over the remaining pasta. Put the cheesy pasta in a 9×9 square or circle pan, top with toasted breadcrumbs (you can toast them in a little skillet on the stove) and some parmesan and bake for 10 minutes right under the burner.
HEALTHIER BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHEESE SAUCE
This sauce is life! AND it’s lower in calories than your typical cheese sauce because we’re replacing half the cheese with butternut squash!
First you sauté some diced onion in olive oil until they’re all delicious-smelling and golden on the edges. Throw in some garlic and thyme and stir for about a minute until it smells even more delicious. Then in goes some cubed butternut squash and chicken broth to simmer away in the pan covered while the pasta cooks on another burner (because we like to save time, hello!).
After you rinse the pasta, you can puree the squash mixture in a blender. This one is my favorite (and there’s a pic below). It has super handy presets for everything you would need, so I just popped my blender on the base and pressed “puree” and walk away. The mixture was silky smooth in 60 seconds.
Whisk together a quick roux of butter and flour in that same pot you cooked the squash in earlier. Whisk in the butternut squash puree and some half and half and keep whisking until the sides begin to gently bubble.
Off the heat, mix in some cheddar and gruyere (Swiss is a more budget friendly option to replace gruyere and is just as delicious). After that melts you simply season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and you’re cheesy butternut squash sauce is ready to go over the noodles!
THE BEST MACARONI NOODLE ALTERNATIVES
The best part about this sauce is you can use it for more than just macaroni. It’s good on EVERYTHING you like cheese on. To name a few…
VEGGIES. Cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, spaghetti squash, also all the veggie noodles and I’m sure just about anything you can make a gratin with, you can use this cheese sauce with!
NOODLES. I love to use whole wheat noodles because they are nuttier and I don’t have a gluten intolerance. However, if you can’t do gluten, there are so many options now! I really like the chickpea noodles for a grain free source, but just your basic gluten free are delicious too.
Some of My Favorite Equipment Used For This Recipe:
BEST CASSEROLE FOR COMPANY OR KIDS
I love to bring this over to potlucks or family birthday parties or barbecues. It’s such a crowd please and I haven’t had anyone even ask if there are secret veggies in it!
This recipe is an obvious win with the kids. I serve this with some broccoli and some chicken and my son asks for seconds of the macaroni every time! Just getting him to eat his dinner in under an hour is a win. He’s such a distracted eater! Please comment below if you have this same issue…it’s crazy!
Anyway, my point is, he actually likes this macaroni and cheese so much that he eats it up super fast! I won’t lie to you though, the broccoli takes some time. But really, kids think they are traumatized just from having to eat broccoli. I say try getting a stubborn four year old to eat it and tell me what real trauma looks like!
What I Love to Serve Mac and Cheese With:
- Crispy Garlic Chili Chicken Thighs
- Roasted Shallot and Garlic Broccoli
- Lemon Thyme Whole Roasted Chicken
Easy Butternut Squash Baked Mac and Cheese
What You Need
- 14 ounces elbow macaroni or cavatapi*
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion (,diced)
- 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves + more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic (,minced)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 10 ounces butternut squash (,peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour*
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 10 ounces butternut squash (,peeled)
- 1 cup cream or half-and-half
- 2 cups 8 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
- 1/2 cup Gruyere or Swiss Cheese (, grated)
- Salt and Pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs*
- 2 tablespoon grated parmesan (optional)
How to Make It
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Heat a stock pot filled halfway with water to boil for the pasta.
- While the water comes to a boil, heat oil in a medium lidded pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender with golden edges, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and thyme to the onions and stir continuously until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Pour the stock and butternut squash into the pot with the onions; Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Pour the pasta into the boiling water with a generous sprinkling of salt and cook both the pasta and squash around 8-11 minutes or until the pasta is al dente or a little over. Drain the pasta, rinse with cold water and return to stock pot off any heat. Carefully, pour the squash and broth mixture into a blender and puree for 40-60 seconds or until completely smooth.
- In the same medium pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until it resembles a paste, then quickly add the butternut puree and half and half. Whisk until the outside of the pan bubbles, then turn off the heat. Add cheddar and swiss and continue whisking until smooth. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to coat evenly. Pour into a 9×9″ pan. Add breadcrumbs to a small skillet, stirring occasionally over medium heat and until they are golden brown. Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni as well as the parmesan. Place about 2 inches under the oven burner and cooke for 10 minutes or until the top is just golden. Serve immediately.
**This blog post contains affiliate links to products that I actually use and that align with my values. See my affiliate disclaimer here.
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