Butternut squash mac and cheese is a vitamin-packed take on the family-friendly favorite! This healthy comfort food is so cheesy and velvety, no one will ever guess that it’s packed with veggies!
I’d like to think that I’m always honest with my sons, but the fact is, sometimes I fib to them just a little bit.
But, I only do it when it’s for their own good! Pinky swear!
You see, my bookend sons are great eaters. They’ll try most anything that I put in front of them, and eat a well balanced diet. I never worry about them getting enough nutrition. My middle boys, however, are quite another story.
Son #2 is the most tactile and sensitive to textures. He won’t even think about eating anything that so much as looks too wet, too dry, touching too many other foods, or too green. He’s been known to burst into tears the moment I set his plate in front of him…which is awesome for my culinary ego. With the exception of the occasional banana, he only eats dried fruit, or firm red grapes–provided they are fresh from the ‘fridge or frozen. He views any vegetables other than corn or sugar snap peas as surely toxic.
Son #3 raucously cheers for most anything that I serve him, but then quickly decides that he is still super stuffed from his previous meal the moment his fork touches the plate. He eats barely ripe bananas and apple sauce, but not whole apples. He’ll also eat loads of veggies, so long as they are raw carrots, raw sugar snap peas, or steamed broccoli.
But I prepare three meals for six people, every single day. I’m not about to cater to picky eaters, serving as a short order cook for every meal. I’m convinced that to do so would cause me to lose what is left of my mind. That said, I try to get even my pickiest of eaters to somehow eat a balanced diet throughout the week.
Do I succeed every week? Absolutely not. I’m not a miracle worker, and I try not to make food an hot-button issue at mealtime. To force the issue would only serve to make everyone at the table miserable. Meal time is for gathering around the table and connecting with family, not for fighting about “how many bites?” have to be eaten to be deemed acceptable.
So I lie to them.
I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s true. I sneak vegetables like butternut squash into a load of our family’s favorite foods, and I never say a word about it. If they ask if this vegetable or that vegetable is part of the meal, then I’ll tell the truth, But only after they try a bite of the food in question.
Butternut squash mac and cheese is one of our family’s favorite meals.
They’re so enamored with crunchy topping and soft noodles swimming in silky cheese sauce, all they taste is comfort food. They’re none the wiser to the entire squash that I’ve hidden in the mix–and that is a fact that I can live with.
Because sometimes–just sometimes–a lie by omission really is good for you.
Enjoy this healthy butternut squash mac and cheese!
A vitamin-packed take on a family-friendly favorite that is so cheesy and velvety that no one will ever guess that it’s loaded with butternut squash!
30 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
- 14 oz. box Penne pasta, cooked 1 minute shy of al dente
- 1 small butternut squash (1 ¼ pounds), cooked, peeled, seeded, and pureed ,or 2 cups canned puree
- 1 ½ C. 2% milk
- 1 C. chicken stock
- 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. ground white pepper
- ½ tsp. ground mustard
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 C. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 1 C. Pinconning cheese, freshly grated (or substitute another sharp, melty cheese)
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 C. Panko style breadcrumbs
- ¼ C. finely grated cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2.6L baking dish and set it aside while preparing the pasta.
- Cook the penne according to package directions, until just one minute shy of “al dente.” For example, if the package indicates to cook the pasta for 8 minutes for al dente, then cook the pasta for 7 minutes before removing it from the heat and draining it.
- Pour the milk and chicken stock into a large saucepan. Whisk the flour, Kosher salt, white pepper, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper into the liquids until smooth. Heat the base sauce mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the base is thick and velvety.
- Whisk the butternut squash puree into the sauce base until no lumps remain. Turn off the heat, and add the cheeses, stirring until completely melted. Toss the cooked penne into the pot, stirring to coat with the cheese sauce. Transfer the sauced pasta to the prepared baking dish. Combine the melted butter, Panko breadcrumbs, and finely grated cheddar and sprinkle it evenly over top of the pasta.
- Bake the pasta for 20 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and topping is nicely browned.
- Serve immediately with a salad and hunk of crusty bread.
If you have a picky eater to feed, then I suggest finding a copy of The Seven Silly Eaters, but Mary Ann Hoberman. It’s a fun and whimsical read that tells about one families accidental solution to their picky eater problem. My kids love this book, and it gives them insight on how demands of many can weigh on the family cook.
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World says