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Dinner

vegetarian

Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese

Rather than nagging my two kids (now 13 and 10) to eat their veggies, I try to model positive behavior by eating vegetables often and enthusiastically. That’s not always enough, though, so I periodically resort to some of the age-old tricks like sneaking veggies into dishes that my kids already eat willingly.


One such dish is this delicious Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese. It looks and feels like “regular” mac 'n' cheese, but there is a subtle, “secret” sweetness to it that my kids absolutely love. Packed with nutrients and rich in fiber, squash is considered a cold weather superfood. So, dig in and have another helping. The secret is out.

60 mins

SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

1/2 medium butternut squash peeled, seeded, and chopped (about 4 cups) 2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

1/2 pound penne pasta

2 1/2 cups milk divided

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups shredded cheddar (sharp is best)

DIRECTIONS

1. COOK THE SQUASH

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, scatter butternut squash chunks on the sheet pan and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and give squash a toss, coating them with oil.

Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender, turning once.

Once squash is tender, transfer it carefully to a large pot or bowl and, using an immersion blender, puree the squash. Add 1/2 cup of the milk and continue pureeing until smooth. (You can also do this step in a food processor or blender.)


2. COOK THE PASTA

While the squash is roasting, you can cook the pasta according to package directions.


3. MAKE THE SAUCE

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and stir flour into melted butter, cooking this paste for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the flour mixture smells nutty and is light brown.

Add the remaining 2 cups of milk and whisk until mixture is smooth.

Add the 2 cups of shredded cheese and pureed squash and heat through while continuing to stir.

After the sauce has thickened, turn the heat to low and add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir until the noodles are well coated and warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

COOKING TOGETHER

KIDS CAN:

  • Help take apart a butternut squash. You and your young chef might have to do a little research to do this. Fun!
  • Help cut the squash into chunks using a butter knife or a small chef’s knife. I use these tools we call ​wavy choppers​ with younger kids. They are perfect for ages 2+.
  • Shred the cheese on a box grater.

GROWN-UPS CAN:

  • Explore the varieties of squash with your kids at the store or online. Why are there so many? What are their names? How are they eaten? They are orange, green, blue, grey and yellow on the outside. What color are they on the inside?
  • Manage the oven and cooking as you create this special seasonal dish.
A photo of Cheryl.

Cheryl Knecht Muñoz

Cheryl is the Founder and Owner of Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, a cooking school for kids and their families in River Forest, IL. As a chef, instructor, and working mom, she is passionate about growing, cooking, and sharing good food together.

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