‘Tis the season for comfort food. As cooler weather sets in, the leaves finish falling, and the sun sets earlier and earlier, all I want is a cozy bowl of warm, soul-nourishing mac & cheese. While nothing outranks classic mac & cheese, I love making butternut squash mac & cheese in the fall and winter. It’s creamy, indulgent and comforting, with healthier twists that don’t make me feel super guilty for eating a bowl … or three.
As a kid, I was a super picky eater and not a fan of most vegetables. Fortunately, my tastes have evolved, and I’m a little more adventurous with food. Butternut squash has only made its way into my diet in the last few years. I won’t lie, though, I had to disguise it. Butternut squash is naturally sweet and caramelizes a bit when roasted. When blended, it turns into a deliciously smooth and creamy base for a sauce. As for the cheesy flavor, that comes from nutritional yeast and some finely grated parmesan or asiago. Paprika, mustard powder, garlic powder and onion powder provide a savory balance to the natural sweetness, and nutmeg adds a dash of autumnal warmth that brings everything together.
When choosing pasta, I gravitate toward larger shapes that will carry the thick sauce. My favorite is cavatappi, with its thicker, larger spirals. If you can’t find cavatappi, then penne, large elbows, rigatoni or even farfalle work just as well.
This recipe makes a pretty hefty portion — perfect for leftovers, meal prepping or sharing with friends. In fact, I made this for Thanksgiving last year, and it was a hit! In addition to the disguised squash, you can easily make it vegan and dairy-free if you need to meet dietary restrictions. Just use non-dairy milk and leave out the grated parmesan cheese. Swap in gluten-free pasta if necessary, too.
Here’s how to make delicious, comforting butternut squash mac & cheese!
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
- 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp each, salt and pepper
- 1 lb pasta of choice, cooked (gluten-free if needed)
- 1 cup milk (dairy-free if needed)
- 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan or asiago (remove if vegan)
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Toss butternut squash cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until tender.
- While squash is in the oven, cook pasta to just under al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl or casserole dish.
- When squash is done, remove from the oven and add it to a blender.
- Add remaining ingredients (milk, grated cheese, nutritional yeast, and spices) and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick or having trouble blending, slowly add more milk until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Pour blended sauce over the noodles and stir until well-coated.
- Garnish with grated parmesan and fresh herbs if desired (rosemary and sage work really well). Serve hot and enjoy!
Enjoy this delicious meal!
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