Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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Meghan Splawn
Nov 28, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Butternut squash mac and cheese isn't just a recipe for sneaking more vegetables into your diet. Adding butternut squash to your mac and cheese also gives it a gorgeous golden hue, makes for an extra-silky sauce, and adds a sweeter, earthier taste to the classic.

We think butternut squash mac and cheese should be your go-to seasonal comfort food, just as welcome on a Wednesday night as it is at your holiday table. Here is the easiest way to get from cubed squash to deluxe mac and cheese at home.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Making a Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce

The key to creamy, butternut squash mac and cheese is to cook the squash directly in the milk. Cooking cubed squash in whole milk makes the cheese sauce prettier, eliminates extra dishes, and adds sweetness that perfectly balances the tang of both the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses added to the final pasta dish.

Here's how to do it: Cube your squash (or buy fresh or frozen squash that is cubed and prepped for you). Then combine the squash with the milk, a little water, and some salt and cook until tender. Purée the squash and milk, and you've got an instantly creamy sauce without any flour, roux, or heavy cream.

Cook your pasta separately, add it (along with a lot of grated cheese) to your butternut squash sauce, and you've got a lovely pot of creamy and luxe butternut mac and cheese.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Serves 8 to 10

Prep time: 25 minutes ; cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1 pound

    butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes, or 1 (15-ounce) bag frozen cubed butternut squash (do not thaw)

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/2 cup

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground white pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 pound

    dry small pasta shells

  • 1 1/2 cups

    grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)

  • 1/4 cup

    finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 ounces

    cream cheese, at room temperature

Place the squash, milk, water, and salt in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. (If using frozen squash, it will be tender by the time it comes to a simmer, so do not cover and cook). Turn off the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Use an immersion blender to purée the milk and squash into a smooth sauce. Stir in the nutmeg and pepper. Add the cooked pasta, cheddar, Parmesan, and cream cheese, and stir until the pasta is evenly combined and the cheeses are melted.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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