Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

In my almost year-long hiatus from the blog world, I didn’t just fold up my apron and step out of the kitchen. Sure, there’s been some takeout. Lots of ice cream from the grocery store for dessert. Frozen ravioli and peas. So sue me.

But also, in the past two years since graduating college and becoming a real life grown up, I kind of learned to cook. In fact, I cook more than I bake these days. Like real meals. Dinner on the table. Meat, veggies, starch. You know.

Don’t get me wrong – I will always be a baker. A dessert kind of gal. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t change that about myself even if I wanted to. If you click on the “Real Food” category on my blog you will find (as of now) a 3 entries. Click on the “Chocolate” category, and you will find around 7 pages of goodies. So don’t worry, I have my priorities straight.

So let’s just say this post is about one of those things that comes out of my kitchen in between the sweet stuff. It’s about one of my new favorite meals.

Friends, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Friends.  I think this might be kind of healthy. It uses a healthy amount of cheese, yes, but most of the deliciousness comes from pureed butternut squash and whole wheat noodles. Notice in the background that this dish goes quickly – by the time we thought to snap some pictures we were on to the second casserole dish.

I highly suggest you call up some friends, invite them over for an early Sunday evening meal. Serve them this mac and cheese in a beautiful casserole dish. Roast up some asparagus or other green veggie for some added color. Drink some wine and laugh a lot. Go back for seconds. And okay, okay, make these for dessert. Or these. Or these.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
adapted from Simple Bites

1 lb whole wheat pasta (any shape will do!)
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbs flour
3 cups milk (I like to use 2%)
1 2/3 cups butternut squash puree**
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups grated cheese (I used mostly cheddar with a little parmesan)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

**There are a few different ways to make butternut squash puree, but my favorite is to roast the squash first – I think it brings out the best flavor. Just cut a whole butternut squash in half or quarters, scoop out the seeds, and roast at 400 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until nice and tender. Let cool and scoop flesh into a food processor to blend into puree! Measure out what you need and freeze the rest.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one or two casserole dishes (depending on size – I use two 9-10 inch round dishes, but it would probably fit into one bit 9×13 dish).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, minus one minute. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Sprinkle in flour, stirring with a whisk to incorporate. Add the milk, continuing to stir, and cook for 2-4 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Add in butternut squash and then the cheese. Stir with whisk until all the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth and dreamy (yes, dreamy). Stir in the mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the cooked pasta into the saucepan and mix well so sauce is fully incorporated with the pasta. Fill prepared casserole dishes. Top with desired amount of breadcrumbs (i.e. more is always better, in my opinion) and pop in the oven. Bake until heated all the way through and cheese is bubbly, but careful not to let the top dry out.

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