Even though spring is technically fast approaching, you’d never know it based on the weather lately! The snow continues to fall, the temperatures continue to hang out below zero, and the wind continues to blow. With these conditions comes a continued craving for warm, comforting foods. At least, for me it does! And one of my favourite comfort foods is mac & cheese. It’s a classic; one that’s creamy, cheesy, and oh-so-delicious. To give it a bit of a twist, and to help bump up its nutrition, I added a sneaky ingredient – butternut squash! You’d never know its there, because the colour blends right in alongside the cheddar cheese. Perfect for squeezing an extra serving of veggies onto the plates of your kids! It adds a delicious depth of flavour, especially when paired with the combination of spices listed in the recipe below. Give it a try today and let me know what you think! Happy eating 😊
1 tablespoon butter
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butternut squash puree
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 ½ cups whole wheat macaroni noodles
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs or Panko
1 tablespoon butter
Assorted herbs & spices
Preheat the oven to 375⁰F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water boils, make the sauce:
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a shallow pot on medium/low heat until bubbly and fragrant.
Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Then add garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes.
Next, sprinkle flour over the onion mixture and stir until evenly coated. Cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture is thick and brown.
Slowly add the milk to the mixture, stirring constantly. Be sure to get into the sides of the pan, scraping up the flour/onion/garlic mixture and ensuring it is all combined.
Continue to cook on medium/low heat, stirring or whisking frequently.
After 5-8 minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. Add the spices (nutmeg through to the cayenne) to the butternut squash puree, and then fold the spiced puree into the sauce. Whisk until evenly combined.
Sprinkle the grated cheese into the sauce and stir until melted.
Reduce heat to low, and stir occasionally.
By now, the pot of water should be boiling. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and pour overtop of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle in any combination of the spices used in the sauce and mix until combined well.
Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to the large pot. Pour the sauce overtop and mix well.
Transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture overtop. You can also grate a bit more cheese and sprinkle that on too.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling, the cheese on top is melted, and the bread crumbs are a golden-brown colour.
Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.
Paired with a side salad this makes the perfect meal!
Recipe created by Alex Chesney, RD