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Food Factor: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

by Ms. Natasha Haynes, MSU Extension Service

Video by Jonathan Parrish

For many people, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Traditionally, this calorie-laden dish is loaded with fat, fat and more fat, plus simple carbohydrates in the pasta. Definitely not on the menu for people interested in healthier foods!

But wait! You can have your mac and eat it too!

Check out this healthier option that incorporates butternut squash—an abundant, budget-friendly fall vegetable—and whole-wheat pasta into the mixture of low-fat milk and a combination of skim-milk mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. It makes a delicious side dish or an entrée for friends and family members who don’t eat meat but will eat dairy.

Pro tip: Save some of the cooking water from the pasta. You can stir it in as needed at the very end for a creamier sauce!

Not sure how to handle a whole butternut squash? You may be able to find precut cubes in the produce or frozen foods sections of the grocery store. Or try these tips:

  • To be sure you have the right amount for your recipe, weigh the butternut squash. A 2-pound squash yields about 3 cups of diced squash once you’ve removed the peel and seeds. A 1-pound squash yields 1 to 1½ cups diced squash.

  • To prepare the squash, cut off the top and bottom. Peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape the cavity clean.

Crew Review: This is not your traditional macaroni and cheese, but it is tasty! We couldn’t find whole wheat elbow macaroni or rotini, so we used bow-tie pasta instead. It was fun to try something different!

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese


- 1 small butternut squash or half large butternut squash, scrubbed with clean vegetable brush under running water

- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

- 1 teaspoon black pepper

- 1 teaspoon garlic powder

- 2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta (macaroni or rotini)

- 1/4 cup white onion, chopped

- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

- 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard (optional)

- 1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)

- 3/4 cup low fat milk

- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Wash hands with soap and water. Gently rub squash under cold running water.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut squash in half and remove skin and seeds. You will need about 2 cups.

Cut squash into small cubes and place on sheet pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Brush squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle evenly with pepper and garlic powder. Roast for about 25 minutes or until soft.

While squash is roasting, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat half tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft.

Place squash, onion, salt, dried mustard, paprika and milk into a blender and puree until smooth.

Pour puree over noodles and mix evenly.

Stir in shredded cheeses. Add some water to adjust consistency if desired.

Thanks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension for this recipe!

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