Happy National Macaroni and Cheese Day!
When I was growing up I didn’t want ANY macaroni and cheese that wasn’t my mother’s. It didn’t matter if you speckled yours with pieces of gold, it still got side-eyed. My sister and I would spend what seemed like forever grating blocks of cheese, then eagerly watch her make a cheese sauce, toss it with noodles and other secret ingredients and bake it to perfection. When I first learned to make macaroni and cheese, it was my mother’s recipe, and to this day, if you catch me at a good time, maybe I’ll make it for you.
There are only two problems… 1) It is EXPENSIVE. All the cheeses add up and it doesn’t make sense to make just one serving, and 2) It isn’t the healthiest dish in the world. All the cheeses make it high in saturated fat (bad fat) and cholesterol, so even though it is (so) worth it, it doesn’t hurt to lighten it up. This dish borrows its creaminess from butternut squash so you can cut down the cheese (and money spent!) and still enjoy your favorite comfort food.
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
16 ounces butternut squash, diced
1 cup reduced sodium vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups low- or nonfat milk (or milk substitute) (I used organic soy milk)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tsp black pepper
1 box (16 oz) elbow macaroni noodles (whole wheat if possible), cooked according to package directions and tossed with 2 tsp olive oil
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine diced squash, vegetable stock, and milk in a medium pan; bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer for 15 -20 minutes, until squash is soft enough to be mashed with a fork. Remove from heat, then mash squash, season with sea salt and black pepper and stir to combine all ingredients.
3. Stir together the squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, parmesan, and noodles until it is evenly mixed.
4. Lightly coat a 9- inch square baking dish with 2 tsp olive oil . Transfer noodle mixture to dish. Sprinkle extra Parmesan and cheddar cheeses on top of the noodles.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Enjoy this lighter version of your favorite food!