Another creamy, cheesy butternut squash pasta recipe coming at you! Because this time of year simply demands hot, melty comfort food, am I right?
Luckily, though, you can have your decadent indulgence and still feel good about every part of it. This healthy mac n’ cheese packs in nutrient-dense veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and a lightened-up cream sauce (no heavy cream involved!). But it most definitely does not lack in richness or flavor. Sweet roasted butternut with caramelized onion and garlic makes a velvety sauce, combined with smoky, nutty cheeses, savory herbs, tender spinach, and salty crisp turkey bacon…the ultimate bowl of cold-weather comfort.
Pre-chopped butternut squash makes this recipe ultra-convenient, too! If you can’t find any chopped fresh squash, frozen will work as well–just reduce the cooking time by a couple minutes. You can even cut a whole squash in half, roast it until tender, then scrape the flesh out.
I roasted mine in a garlic-infused olive oil and the aroma was HEAVENLY.
The secret to the creamy creamless sauce is a simple mix of 1% milk and cornstarch–so easy, and it thickens up beautifully! Deglazed remnants of cooked bacon and sautéed onion and garlic add an extra level of depth.
Blend it up with the roasted butternut and you get a magical, lush sauce just waiting for mix-ins. Bring on the rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper, spinach, cooked pasta, and cheeeeeeeese.
Finish it off with the cooked bacon, an extra sprinkle of cheese if you fancy, then DIG. IN.
- 3.5 oz | 2/3 cup cubed butternut squash*
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 2 slices turkey bacon
- 2 Tbsp chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)
- black pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 15g shredded smoked gouda***
- 15g shredded white cheddar***
- 10g shredded parmigiano-reggiano***
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 4 oz whole grain macaroni
- Preheat oven to 400º. Toss butternut squash with olive oil. Roast about 20 minutes, or until tender. Set aside.
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni or other short pasta according to package directions. Drain almost completely, and return to pot with a little pasta water to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat on each side until crisp. Remove and set aside. When cool, roughly tear or chop into bite-sized pieces.
- In the same skillet over medium heat, add broth and onion, stirring to scrape up browned bits.** Cook 3-4 minutes, or until translucent; add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer. Lower heat.
- Meanwhile, whisk milk and cornstarch in a large measuring cup until dissolved. Pour into skillet over cooked onion and garlic, stirring gently. Bring to a light simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook until just thickened (2-3 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Add sauce and roasted butternut to a blender and puree until smooth. Return sauce to skillet over low heat. Stir in salt (about 1/8 tsp) and pepper, thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg. Gradually stir spinach into sauce; cover if necessary until wilted. Then fold in cheeses and cooked pasta (with 1-2 Tbsp reserved pasta water if necessary).
- Divide between two bowls and top with chopped bacon and extra cheese, if desired.
- *If using frozen cubed butternut squash, reduce roasting time by about 5 minutes. If using a whole butternut squash, you can slice it in half and roast the halves until tender (about 45 minutes), then scoop out the flesh (about 1/3 cup).
- **If not using a nonstick pan, you may need to add a little butter or olive oil.
- ***Other options for cheeses include (smoked) mozzarella, fontina, or provolone. Any combinations to have about 1/3 cup total after shredding.