Comforting mac and cheese made healthier with the help of
Fall flavors like butternut squash, sage and nutmeg!
Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I’d say it’s my personal favorite, and if you’re reading this, I bet it’s high on your list too! Since it’s Fall, I thought it would be fun to “Fall-ify” this staple and also make it more nutritious by adding in butternut squash and holiday-inspired herbs/spices. After quite a few test batches (hard job, I know!), I found my perfect mac and cheese made with butternut squash, sage and nutmeg!
This recipe is super easy to make with one caveat… you have to cut that darn butternut squash! I promise with practice, it does get easier and less daunting. And I should know. My toddler loves butternut squash so it makes our veggie rotation often. While I used to buy them pre-cut, I couldn’t justify the cost since I make squash so often. So here’s the way I find the easiest:
How to Cut a Butternut Squash:
- Cut the ends off
- Poke holes into the squash
- Microwave for 3-4 minutes
- Peel the squash
- Cut in half lengthwise
- Scoop out seeds
- Cut the remaining squash into cubes
While many butternut squash mac and cheese recipes call for boiling the squash in broth before pureeing, I prefer to roast mine. First, roasting brings out the sweetness of the squash and adds that warm Fall flavor. Second, I like to do big batch cooking, and it’s easier to roast an entire squash at once rather than use only half of it for a recipe.
How to Roast a Butternut Squash:
To roast the squash, I place the cubes into a bowl, mix with olive oil, salt/pepper and then place on a parchment paper lined baking pan for about 30-40 minutes in a 400F degree oven till very soft. For this recipe, I use about half the roasted squash (depending on it’s size of course), blend it with milk and then warm on a stove with cheddar to create a decadent cheesy mixture. The sage and nutmeg add subtle flavors that make this dish even more festive, especially if you are making this for Thanksgiving!
For the pasta, feel free to use elbow pasta, shells, or whatever type you prefer. I love rotini, which is like fusilli, because it holds sauces beautifully. I chose to use the whole wheat variety because why not! You won’t even notice it’s whole wheat under all that yumminess!
So here’s the RECIPE…
- 2 cups whole wheat rotini pasta
- 3 cup cubed butternut squash
- 1.5 cup cheddar cheese
- 1.5 cup 2% or whole milk
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 10 sage leaves
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix cubed butternut squash with olive oil and salt/pepper.
- Place evenly on parchment paper lined baking pan and roast in 400F oven for 30-40 minutes till very soft.
- While the squash is roasting, prepare the pasta according the directions on the package.
- When the squash is done, place 3 cups of it into a blender with the milk and nutmeg.
- Blend till smooth (roughly 2-4 minutes).
- Prepare the sage by taking a large saute pan and melting the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sage and allow it to "crisperize" for ~3 minutes. Place on towel for later.
- In same sauce pan, turn heat to medium-low, add the squash mixture and then the cheese. Mix over low heat for ~5 minutes.
- Add the pasta and combine.
- Place mac and cheese in serving dish and take the sage, which you can chop, and sprinkle it on top of pasta.
- I recommend cooking pasta in salted water and rinsing with room temperature water when draining.
- If sauce is too thick, slowly add more milk while mixing.
What do you think?!
If you make this recipe for sage butternut squash mac and cheese with nutmeg, please let me know what you think in the comments below! And since we are on the topic of comfort foods, I’d also love to know the answer to this question… if you could have one comfort food for the rest of your life and it would be made calorie-free (just for fun!), which would it be?