If you generally frown upon add-ins for certain family style classics, then Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese just might be a game changer for you. Roasted butternut squash perfectly mellows out the sharpness of the cheese sauce. Serve this vegetarian mac and cheese baked with breadcrumbs, or right outta the pot.
This is going to be a controversial recipe. The reason being that this butternut squash macaroni and cheese has, well, butternut squash in it. And there is a very large contingent of very easily-agitated folks who make up the “Don’t mess with the mac and cheese” Army on the internet. And here I am brandishing a macaroni and cheese with butternut squash recipe on their internet.
When this dish made the recipe rounds thanks to a certain quirky grocery store’s seasonal offerings, I’ll admit I was curious, but remained cautious. Because you know me…I’ll put veggies on and in anything.
But I also respect that mac and cheese is a sacred space. (And I also don’t want to wind up with the same fate as people who put raisins where they don’t belong. I don’t need that heat.)
But this ain’t raisins. It’s roasted butternut squash, which easily purees down into a silky, creamy sauce starter for your mac and cheese. And when that gets blended with just the right amount of cheese and cream, you get an elevated dish, not an egregious one. I bet you couldn’t even tell by looking at this beautiful, golden masterpiece that it has squash in it.
What’s more, replacing some of the sauce with the puree makes this healthy butternut squash mac and cheese easier to swallow – literally and figuratively. And I love any dish that’s decadent without adding guilt to my life.
For a condensed post with just the recipe and tips, click to view the web story for this casserole recipe.
How to Make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Creamy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a welcome spin on a family favorite. Sweet, mellow roasted veggies elevate the classic cheese sauce. Serve stovetop style, or bake it casserole style with buttery breadcrumbs. Bonus points for this recipe being easily adaptable for gluten free diets.
Part One: Basic Butternut Mac and Cheese
- ROAST. Heat oven to 400°F. Arrange squash, onion, and garlic cloves in a baking dish and toss with olive oil and seasonings. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the veggies soften and caramelize around the edges.
- PASTA. Cook according to package directions in salted water. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
- SAUCE. Puree roasted vegetables with heavy cream and ½ c pasta water until very smooth. Add cheeses in ½ cup batches, blending between each addition.
- FINISH. Pour the creamy butternut cheeses sauce over the cooked pasta and fold until well combined. If the sauce is too thick, add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time until thinned to preference.
- SERVE. Serve as-is, or move to next step!
Part Two: Make Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Casserole
- TEMP. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
- MAKE TOPPING. Combine panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and melted butter in a small bowl until well combined.
- BUILD. Transfer the mac and cheese to a lightly greased casserole dish, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top.
- BAKE. Bake 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden brown and casserole is bubbling.
What’s the Best Pasta to Use?
A short, ridged pasta like a rigatoni will grab onto the thick butternut squash cheese sauce better than a smooth pasta shape. We also like shells, penne, and even rotini!
Can I Swap the Cheese?
Sharp cheeses that melt well are your best bet to balance out the sweetness of the squash. You could go for a gouda or taleggio if cheddar, gruyere, or fontina don’t suit your taste, but your safest bet if you want to swap is to play with different cheddars – just not aged, those are too hard.
Can I Make it Gluten Free?
Absolutely. Just substitute gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs, the rest is naturally GF. Just be advised, GF pasta releases more starch during cooking, so you may want to add plain warm water to balance as you mix the pasta water in.
Can I Make this Ahead of Time?
Yes! Prepare the casserole, but leave off the topping. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Add the topping and bake as directed when you’re ready to serve.
More Indulgent Veggie-Forward Sides
- Cauliflower Au Gratin
- Keto Creamed Spinach
- Creamy Cauliflower Risotto
- Creamy Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables
- Zucchini Casserole
Did you try our butternut squash mac and cheese? Which way do you like it best?!? Tell me all about it in the comments, and leave a rating!
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- Casserole Dish
- 1 medium (2.5 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seed, and diced; about 4 cups
- 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp rubbed sage
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 lb short, ridged pasta, like rigatoni or penne
- ½ c heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded cheddar, gruyere, and/or fontina cheese
Topping for Baking
- ½ c panko breadcrumbs
- ⅓ c grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the squash, onion, and garlic cloves in a casserole dish. Drizzle with the olive oil, then season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus the thyme, sage, pepper, and nutmeg. Toss until the vegetables are evenly coated with the oil and spices.
- Transfer to the oven and roast 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelize around the edges.
- While the vegetables bake, cook the pasta according to package directions in water seasoned with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain.
- Transfer the softened vegetables to a blender or food processor. Add the heavy cream and ½ c pasta water. Puree until very smooth. Add the cheeses in ½ cup batches, pureeing in between each addition. If the mixture becomes too thick, add 2-3 tablespoons pasta water. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
- Pour over the pasta and fold until well combined. If the sauce is too thick, add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. At this point, the mac and cheese can be served as is, or you can proceed and make a baked casserole.
- To bake: reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a small bowl; mix until well combined and the breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the mac and cheese to a lightly oiled casserole dish, then sprinkle with the breadcrumb topping. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and the mac and cheese is bubbling.