This healthy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese features a sneaky mixture of whipped squash and low-cal cauliflower in place of the traditional butter-based roux. It’s also loaded with holiday flavours, making it the ideal Vegetarian Casserole holiday main dish.
When I was growing up, my mom didn’t let us have mac and cheese. I know. It was practically child abuse. And it wasn’t even because she thought it was crap. It was because she had a strange phobia of cheese and refused to smell or cook it. Well, thankfully, I didn’t inherit her unusual fear and LOVE THE STUFF. Seriously, if I could put all the cheese in my mouth at one time, I would be in good shape.
Alas, I’m not a 6 year old girl with a crazy metabolism anymore. I should have eaten more cheese when I could get away with it. So I wanted to come up with a mac and cheese recipe to satisfy my cravings but without too much unnecessary fat and calories. I’ve done it before, but this time, I wanted to put a healthy holiday spin on it. Introducing my healthy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower Roux.
Yep. You heard me right. I made a pretend roux with butternut squash and cauliflower. I also use a really strong flavored cheese so a little goes a long way.
How to Make Healthy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
It starts with caramelized onions. OMG yes, this is so good. Then I make a sauce by pureeing butternut squash and cauliflower (hence making this butternut squash mac and cheese!!). The cheese goes in last to make a luscious ooey gooey sauce. I like to save some of the cheddar cheese back and throw it into the casserole so that my butternut squash mac and cheese is oooooozey and stringggggy. You know- like the best mac and cheeses always are.
Then I make a holiday inspired topping with panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage, cheese and a sneaky little bit of flaxseed.
This healthy butternut squash mac and cheese makes the perfect vegetarian main for a holiday meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas because it’s something that both the carnivores and vegetarians will love. I mean, I would even be willing to give up my turkey breast for a little of this goodness.
Have you ever tried making butternut squash mac and cheese?
What are your favourite vegetarian holiday dishes? Leave me a comment below with your go-tos!
Healthy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Sage and Cauliflower
- 1 box whole grain short cut pasta 340 g, (like macaroni, fusilli, penne)
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil 10 ml
- 1 cup small yellow onion finely sliced, about 1/3 or 75 ml
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable stock 375 ml
- 2 cups frozen peeled butternut squash finely diced, 500 ml
- 2 cups frozen cauliflower finely diced, 500 ml
- 3/4 cup skim milk 175 ml
- Pinch nutmeg
- 6 oz old cheddar finely shredded, divided, 1 1/2 cups or 375 ml
- 1 oz parmesan cheese finely grated, 1/4 cup or 60 ml
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 2 minutes shy of the box’s recommended cooking time. Drain and set aside.
- Return the pot to the stove and add the oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and caramelize low and slow until sweet and golden brown- about 30 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and squash, cover with a lid and increase the heat to medium high. Cook for 5 minutes or until the squash begins to soften. Add in the cauliflower, cover again, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until all of the vegetables fall apart easily when pricked with a fork.
- Stir in the milk and a pinch of nutmeg, then transfer to a heat-proof stand blender. Puree until very smooth before transferring the mixture back to the pot.
- Heat the pot over medium heat, stirring in 4 oz (1 cup) of the shredded cheddar and an ounce (1/4 cup) of parmesan cheese. Gently stir until fully melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until all of the noodles are well coated.
- Transfer half of the mixture to an 8” square baking dish in a single layer. Top with the reserved 2 oz (1/2 cup) of grated cheddar cheese and then add the remaining noodles with cheese sauce. Set aside.
- To make the breadcrumb topping, add the tablespoon of oil to a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Add the panko breadcrumbs and toss until fully coated in the oil.
- Remove the breadcrumbs from the stovetop and mix with the flaxseed, sage, and parmesan cheese. Spread them evenly across the casserole and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce bubbles around the edges and the breadcrumbs start to turn a very light brown colour. Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel and dig in!
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian, an avid food writer and blogger, a cookbook author and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc.