My family doesn’t traditionally include macaroni and cheese on the Thanksgiving table, so I feel like a bit of a rebel putting it on my menu this year. When I was planning our meal, though, I just couldn’t resist the rich, creamy texture and slightly spicy flavor of this recipe. It gets bonus points for ease of preparation and kid appeal: the orange hue of the butternut squash makes this look just like the blue-box macaroni and cheese that kids love. Plus, with whole wheat pasta, this is about as healthy as macaroni and cheese gets.
This recipe tastes great when reheated, but it doesn’t look very pretty on the second day. For Thanksgiving, I plan to prep all the raw ingredients ahead of time, and then assemble and cook the macaroni and cheese in the 20 minutes while the turkey’s resting. I’ll probably delegate stirring of the cheese sauce to my husband or a guest; though the sauce is really easy, it does require constant whisking so the dairy doesn’t scorch.
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (serves 6)
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta, your choice of shape; we like shells & spirals
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup butternut squash puree
1-1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk flour and melted butter together for about 4 minutes over medium heat; until mixture thickens and turns golden brown. Add milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until liquid is warmed through and light brown. Next, add the squash puree and whisk until combined, followed by the cheeses. Remove sauce from heat and continue to whisk until everything is smooth and creamy. Whisk in seasonings, adding cayenne to taste. By now the pasta will be done; drain and shake off excess water. Stir pasta and cheese sauce together in a serving dish. Garnish with paprika and black pepper.