Healthy Helping of Mac and Cheese

Two things, carbs and cheese! How could you go wrong? wait, how can this be healthy?  Hidden vegetables are what make this recipe so great.  You don’t have to sacrifice everything to eat healthy and here is a way to do it.  The bright cheddar color and creamy texture of the squash will trick your mind into thinking this dish is packed full of heavy cream and delicious cheese, But it’s not!  You can easily make this recipe vegan by using vegetable stock instead of chicken and nutritional yeast instead of cheese.  I have tried both and have to say nutritional yeast is a great alternative, but not for me.  I love cheese too much!  The secret to a good mac is the stringy and cheesy texture.  In order to accomplish this, you don’t need to add much cheese, but add it last.  Trust me on this one!  I know some of my readers are gluten free as well.  There are some great gluten free pastas you can pick up now days, made from quinoa, black bean and brown rice. Trader Joe’s has a great selection of gluten free pastas for you to try. I have tried them all and have found they take less time than wheat pastas to cook, so be careful you don’t over cook or you will have mashed mac and cheese. YUCK!

This recipe is obviously a hit at my house and a regular meal prep item that gets scarfed down. I never, in a million years, would have imagined my kids eating squash without question. I remember as a kid gagging on squash, making a HIGE deal about how horrible it tasted. HA! I have won this game! Mom for the win!

Give it a try!

Here is what you need

2/3 cups butternut squash (cooked and puréed)

2/3 cup chicken or vegtable broth

2 cups pasta of choice

*1/4- 1/3 cup cheese (I used dubliner Irish cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste

You don’t need much cheese to get the cheesy texture. The butternut squash gives you the Mac and cheese color your kids are used to.  Since you aren’t using much cheese, I would suggest you use a sharp cheddar or an aged cheese that is stronger in flavor, but still melts.  I would stay away from parmesan because it requires such a high heat to melt and mozzarella is a little to bland in flavor.  It will give you the cheesy texture, but not the kick of flavor that a sharp cheese would.

Start with your squash, because it can take a while to cook.  The easiest way to cook squash is to cut off the stem and slice in half lengthways. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Bake until soft. I create a purée by placing the cooked squash in a blender with a bit of broth so it blends smoothly. Just enough broth so it will blend, not too much though, as you are not trying to make soup.   While your squash is in the oven, begin to boil your noodles. For more flavor cook your noodles in chicken broth, or just use water and cook. Don’t over cook the noodles because you don’t want them to be mushy or fall apart when you stir in the sauce.  I will strain off the broth after the noodles are cooked so I can use it for the pasta sauce.

In a pan mix the squash purée and broth together to make a pasta sauce. Add the sauce to the cooked noodles.  If after adding the sauce it seems too thick and difficult to stir, add a little more broth to the pan.  At this point it should be creamy in texture and easy to stir.  Just before serving, add the cheese.  *If you are doing the 21 day fix meal plan like myself, wait to add the cheese to your own bowl using your blue container.  That way you know how much you are eating.  You really just want the texture of the cheese, because what is mac and cheese without the cheese?!?! Bread crumbs are a great additive as well. Add your cheese to the noodles and sauce, dish and dust with bread crumbs before placing under a broiler. Broil until bread crumbs are golden brown. Garnish with bacon and Italian parsley.