Yields: 8-10 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50-60 minutes
This dish is a nutritional take on a traditional favorite. The butternut squash adds some extra beta carotene and cauliflower add vitamins C and K. It truly is a great family meal.
14 ounces pipe rigate pasta (or whole wheat elbow macaroni or even gluten free pasta)
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup frozen* chopped butternut squash or squash puree *(see notes in write up below)
1 cup finely grated cauliflower
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, plus 1/8 cup for sprinkling on top
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or any combination, cheddar, mozzarella, jack, etc.), 1/8 cup for sprinkling on top
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Cook pasta, drain, and set aside.
2. Grate cauliflower on the small grating of a cheese grater, and set aside.
3. Place squash, cauliflower, butter and milk in a saucepan and heat to a low simmer. Gently break apart squash with a spoon or spatula during cooking process. (Sometimes I have used a potato masher for quicker results.)
4. Once mixture is thoroughly blended, remove from heat.
5. Slowly add cheeses (remembering to save the last 1/8 cup each for the top) and salt, onion powder and nutmeg.(or one of similar size).
6. Combine heated cheese mixture with pasta in a lightly oiled glass dish (I used a Le Creuset 7” by 10.5” dish.) Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
I absolutely LOVE macaroni and cheese – in any form. The hard part is my body is not a fan of the traditional dish, with pounds of cheese and butter. My digestive system complains and my energy droops. So, not only is the amount of cheese greatly reduced in this recipe, it is replaced with grated cauliflower and has a hint of sweetness from the butternut squash. Sharp cheddar is a bolder cheese, so there is a good underlying flavor to the whole dish, which feels so light and is packed with flavor.
Grating the cauliflower works really well, as it blends right in without any chunks or uneven cooking. Frozen butternut squash is amazing, because it softens and breaks apart from the heat right in the saucepan. I originally figured that out only by a fluke. I was trying to add squash into boxed mac and cheese, and just tried mashing it after steaming it. It broke down so well after being steamed, I tried just adding it straight in the pan, still frozen, and got the same result! Another option is to use Homemade Squash Puree that I make ahead of time and store in the freezer.
If you don’t have chopped butternut squash available, you could always use squash puree. Sometimes the brand of frozen squash has varied, and some are tougher to break down in the pan. I don’t mind that in the dish, but when I had a little one who was extremely picky, I ended up using a potato masher for the stubborn pieces.
I used pipe rigate (very similar to traditional macaroni noodles), and you really could use any noodle, even gluten free. There is no flour or other gluten in the recipe, so it could easily be a gluten free pasta bake. I used the pipe rigate because I love the shape, and it really holds little pockets of cheese and ooey-gooey goodness.
As I mentioned, we have definitely had our food issues over the years. One if not the other two as well has some texture issues. Believe it or not it was actually a thing about melted cheese, even turning down pizza at times. She could tolerate this a little more because the cauliflower and squash break up the stringy characteristic of cheese. Either way, still a winner for me. I don’t feel the need to make any side vegetable dish, as it’s all in there. A little fruit on the side and dinner is ready to go!
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*This post has been updated September 13, 2017. It was originally published August 25, 2015.