Macaroni and cheese. We all love this warm, cheesy inviting dish that brings back memories of childhood and home. Sadly, all too often, this dish is loaded with butter, excessive amounts of cheese, and (especially if you are making the packaged variety) very little in terms of actual nutrition.
Recently, I’ve seen some recipes floating around for butternut squash mac and cheese, and the nutritionist in me just had to try it out myself. I tweaked some of the versions I found online to suit my own personal taste, and this is what I came up with:
Katie’s Mac and Cheese: Adulting Style
This version of mac and cheese has no butter, almost an entire butternut squash, and greek yogurt for additional protein. To my surprise, I didn’t miss the butter, and the veggies more or less just added color and texture to the cheesy mix. It tasted good! Now that you’re all in college and adulting, it’s about time to ditch the Easy Mac and find a healthier, more sophisticated alternative.
Now let’s get cooking! Using a sharp knife, slice one butternut squash down the middle and scoop out the center. Next, peel the squash with a paring knife and cut into cubes. You will need 4-5 cups of cubed squash. For me, this ended up being about ¾ of the whole thing. (You might try adding more, but I was worried about it tasting too ‘squashy’ on my test run, so I stuck with this.) Next, boil the squash in 1 ½ – 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (buy two cans!). Use just enough liquid to cover the squash in your pot. Next, simmer 20-25 minutes until tender.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. While the squash is cooking, you can prep the rest of the dish! Set another pot of water to boil and cook one pound of elbow macaroni until it’s al dente (that means firm to the bite, but not mushy). This usually takes around 7-9 minutes. Then, grab an (approximately) 9×13 glass baking dish. Coat it with cooking spray or spread about one teaspoon of oil in it to evenly coat the dish. Next, mix together 1 ½ cups milk, ½ cup plain greek yogurt, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, and ½ teaspoon of salt. (You can skip the dry mustard if it’s not already in your pantry or you’re not a fan!). You can use any type of milk or yogurt that you prefer, but I used 2% for both. I was afraid using low-fat or nonfat would make it less creamy, especially since we eliminated butter. Fat for texture is a good idea here!
Next, the cheese mix! I used one cup each of white sharp cheddar, italian blend, and parmesan. The cheddar and parmesan provide savory flavor and the italian blend is mostly mozzarella, which melts nicely to provide a smooth texture. You can use whatever cheese you like though–using all three kinds is not required.
Once your squash is tender, use a blender to puree that mix. Mix this, the milk/yogurt mixture, and the cheese mixture with your cooked macaroni in a large bowl then spread it into your greased baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
This recipe makes a large pan so I’d suggest having some friends over to eat or taking it to a party! Alternately, you can freeze leftovers in individual containers to have on hand during busy parts of the semester! To make this a complete and balanced meal, pair with a green vegetable, like broccoli, green beans, or a nice salad.
Want to learn more about adulting beyond cooking? Check out Adulting IU, our new student wellness coaching program (and a sweet massage giveaway) here!