Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Creamy Mac and Cheese with delicious Butternut Squash bursting with roasted sweet and spicy flavors. Also sharing tips to cook a perfectly creamy cheese sauce for mac and cheese, every time.
Creamy mac and cheese recipe loaded with Sweet and Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash. A fall favorite Pasta Dinner, as delicious as it's comforting. I LOVE how sweet and spicy caramelized-at-edges squash melts-in-mouth with cheesy gooey mac-cheese. SO delicious! You will love the flavors.
Also sharing tips to cook a perfectly creamy cheese sauce for mac and cheese. (Read on to know more)
Let the fun of begin!
Mac and Cheese
This is not an ordinary every day Mac and Cheese. I add a few layers of bold flavors to classic mac and cheese recipe to make it more of a Grown-up Mac and Cheese.
The flavor starts with roasting of squash coated in chipotle pasta (for smoky heat), honey and lemon (to balance the the heat), then continues in cheese sauce with nutty asiago and creamy Monterey Jack with subtle flavor of thyme. I know, you will enjoy the play of bold flavors in this recipe.
Ingredients for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
The main ingredients for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese are:
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Cheese Sauce
Roasted Butternut Squash
We love creamy food balanced with some sweet and heat. For a sweet and spicy roasted butternut squash, I use few of my favorite ingredients:
- Chipotle Paste
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Black Pepper
The heat of chipotle goes well with sweetness of honey and tang of lemon. Honey also helps giving squash caramelized color which looks and tastes delicious.
Here's how I roast butternut squash for Mac and Cheese:
- Preheat oven. Peel squash.
- Dice squash to 1-2 inch pieces.
- Coat squash in seasonings, honey, oil and lemon. Spread on baking sheet in single layer.
- Roast until squash is tender to your preference. To add to Mac and Cheese, squash should be knife tender but not mushy.
You can also use this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash as a Fall Vegetable Side with dinner. If serving as side, I recommend; 1) increase the amount of honey, 2) to roast squash a bit more. This way it will taste like a sweet and spicy candy. (pure delish) Perfect savory side with any meal.
Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese comes together very quickly. While squash roast in oven, I work on cheese sauce for mac and cheese. This way, dish is ready in half the time. You can also roast squash up-to two days in advance.
Mac and Cheese is a happy marriage of Béchamel Sauce and cheeses that melt well to make a creamy cheesy sauce. Always remember, a perfect Béchamel is good start to a delicious mac and cheese.
Here are the ingredients for creamy Mac and Cheese Sauce:
- Cheeses - I used Monterey Jack and Asiago. Both are rich and melt nicely to make a Creamy Cheese Sauce. For best results, grate cheese using finest grated. (I use lemon zester)
- AP flour
- Salt and Pepper
As you can see, you need ingredients that are used in béchamel (2-6), plus cheeses that melt well (1). That's it!
How to Make Mac and Cheese Sauce:
The perfect cheese sauce is key to make always-creamy Mac and Cheese. If you perfect the Cheese Sauce, you can make Mac and Cheese with any flavor you like. Here's how I make the Cheese Sauce:
- Make the Béchamel Sauce using flour, butter and milk. (details in recipe card below)
- Remove sauce from the heat then immediately add grated cheeses, one at a time and whisk to melt each cheese into the sauce.
- Once sauce is ready. Mix in cooked pasta and roasted squash.
- Mix in fresh chopped herbs.
That's it! Creamy, sweet and spiced Butternut Squash Mach and Cheese is ready for dinner. I LOVE how sweet and spicy caramelized-at-edges squash melts-in-mouth with a cheesy gooey mac-cheese bite. SO delicious!
NOTE: If making cheese sauce for first time, take your time. Don't rush making the sauce. Gather ingredient first then work on cooking the sauce.
What Pasta to Use for Mac and Cheese?
Even though traditional pasta for Mac and Cheese is Elbow Macaroni (semolina pasta). I use various small pasta depending upon what I have in pantry. When I worked on this recipe, I had mini penne ziti.
In my experience, all small shaped tubular pastas that can hold sauce well work well with Cheese Sauce.
You can use Elbow Macaroni, or any of the following pastas for Mac and Cheese:
- Penne Ziti
- Small Shells
TIP: For Mac Cheese, always cook pasta 1 minutes less than al dente time mentioned on the Pasta Package. This way when pasta bakes with sauce it will never over-cooked.
How to Prevent Mac Cheese Sauce from Breaking?
In my experience, the key to making a good creamy Cheese Sauce is patience and consistency of the temperature of the ingredients.
Here are tips to make creamy Cheese Sauce every time:
- For whole cooking process, keep heat on low-medium heat.
- Use a heavy bottom skillet that distributes heat evenly.
- Use skillet that is two size larger than the quantity of the sauce. So that sauce is easy whisk. Hence results in better quality.
- Heat butter on low heat until it just melts. High heat turns butter to brown butter that results in broken sauce and also makes brown cheese sauce.
- Lukewarm the milk before adding to cooked flour. For best results, add milk in 2-3 batches. Mix one-third, whisk to break lumps. Repeat until whole milk is mixed in.
- Simmer sauce on low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (picture below)
- Flavor or salt the cheese sauce after it thickens.
- Use good quality cheese that is easy to melt. If buying cheese block, grate using finest grater such as zester.
- Take sauce off heat before mixing cheese. If using more than one cheese use such as this Squash Mac and Cheese recipe. Mix one cheese at a time, then add next.
This recipe is very easy to adapt to your preference. In fall, we love to enjoy so many flavor-versions of Squash Mac and Cheese that I had hard time deciding which one to share with you. Listing below few of my favorite flavors and other simple substitutes to make this recipe your own:
- Use any Squash you prefer: I often make this recipe with roasted pumpkin, kurry squash and acrons. (No need to peel skin of acorns or kurry.)
- Try Fried Sage Butternut Squash: Before roasting squash, melt a tbsp. of butter, add fresh sage leaves and let fry. Drain leaves, add flavored butter to squash. I also added crispy bacon in this version of recipe.
- If not after spicy squash flavor, you can also roast squash with just salt, pepper and olive oil. (This recipe is pleasantly spicy and not spice-hot.)
- Use any shape of pasta - penne, ziti, shells or cavatapi.
- You can substitute Monterey Jack cheese with Sharp White Cheddar. I only request to use a good quality cheese. Or buy cheese block and grate at home using a fine grater.
Friends, this month add this fall-inspired Pasta to your dinner menu. If you like combination of creamy, sweet and spicy together? then this Mac and Cheese recipe is a must try. I would love to know what's your favorite creamy Comfort Food dinner? Leave a message and let me know.
Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- 2 lbs Butternut Squash (4-5 cups, cubed)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Lemon (juice)
- 1 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp Chipotle Paste
- 1/2 tsp Salt and Black Pepper
- Mac and Cheese
- 1/4 lbs Pasta (See Note 1)
- 1 Cup Monterey Jack Cheese
- 1.25 Cup Asiago Cheese
- 3 Cup Milk
- 3 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
- 3 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 6-7 Sprigs Thyme
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1. Roast Butternut Squash : Pre heat oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and cube butternut squash. Add squash to a bowl. Add chipotle, cumin, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper. Massage with hands to evenly distribute seasonings. Spread in single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 22-25 minutes or until squash is tender.
- 2. Cook Pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook 1 minute less than al dente. Drain, and set aside.
- 3. Prep Mac and Cheese Sauce Ingredients: While squash is roasting, prepare mac and cheese ingredients. Wash and pat dry thyme leaves. Grate asiago cheese on fine grated setting. Dice butter into small pieces. Lukewarm milk on stove top or microwave.
- 4. Make Mac and Cheese Sauce Base: To make the sauce, heat a large deep skillet on low-medium heat. Add butter and let it melt gently. Sprinkle flour on just melted butter. Cook until fragrant whisking often. (2-3 minutes) Don't let flour burn or brown. Don't increase heat. Add 1/2 of lukewarm milk and whisk until no lump remains. Then add remaining milk and continue whisk until no lump remains. Lower the heat low, add thyme sprigs and simmer until liquid thickens. (5 minutes)
- 5. Finish Sauce: Season sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Fish out thyme sprigs and discard. Remove sauce from the heat then immediately add grated shredded jack cheese and whisk to melt cheese in the sauce. Now add asiago cheese and whisk until cheese melts.
- 6. Assemble and Bake: Gently fold in cooked pasta, and roasted butternut squash. Top with remaining Asiago cheese. Bake at 450 degrees preheat oven for 8-10 minutes or until cheese on top has started to turn golden brown. Take out of the oven.
- 7. Serve: Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs (optional) before serving.
- Even though traditional pasta for Mac and Cheese is Elbow Macaroni (semolina pasta). I use various small pasta depending upon what I have in pantry. When I worked on this recipe, I used mini penne ziti.
- Cook pasta 1 minutes less than al dente time mentioned on the Pasta Package.
- For best results, grate cheese using finest grated. (I use lemon zester)
- Read more tips, substitutes with detailed pictures in the Post above Recipe Card.
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