Macaroni and cheese gets a skinny makeover with a creamy butternut squash puree! Bacon is added for a touch of indulgence, making this the perfect mac n’ cheese to satisfy all your cheesy mac cravings!
If you had a time machine and could go back to your childhood, would you? To where life was just so uncomplicated and heartache was an unknown. Would you do anything different?
I would most definitely hop into that machine and be whisked backwards in time. Call me crazy, but just the thought of no responsibilities, or bills to pay, is enticing enough. Add on recess, daily nap time, and a metabolism as fast as lightening? Sold!
Especially anything covered in cheese. Bagels with cream cheese, grilled cheese, cheese pizza, cheese smothered French fries, cheesy nachos, macaroni and cheese… I love me some cheese, so I would totally take advantage of that super-fast metabolism.
I’d also be more adventurous and open minded to fruits and vegetables. Like, for example, this Skinny Butternut Squash, Bacon, White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese. This mac is creamy, slightly sweet, a tad salty, and all delicious.
I am pretty sure the young, mac n’ cheese purist, Cheyanne would have looked at you like you had lost your freggin’ mind if you thought I was going to eat this version of macaroni and cheese. But, this is what the time machine is for, so I can smack myself silly and force feed myself delectable things like butternut squash and bacon macaroni! (And while I’m at it, asparagus and brussels sprouts- yum!)
This mac n’ cheese is made healthy and extra creamy, without the added fat of a traditional cheese sauce, by the butternut squash puree. Seriously you guys, the puree is so flippin’ fantastic I was eating it straight from the food processor with a
shovel spoon. I had to practice some serious self-restraint because I needed it for the mac. Well, it was that or send boy to the store for another squash to cube and roast, which I totally contemplated as I double dipped.
The scrumptious butternut squash puree gets combined with skim ricotta cheese and fat free half and half to skinnify and revamp the traditional macaroni and cheese. The resulting sauce is silky smooth, rich and decadent, minus all those unwanted calories.
But, since we are being so kind to our waistlines, I absolutely HAD to add a little bit of bacon (feel free to omit this, but only if you are vegan or vegetarian). The bacon adds a touch of salty crispness which enhances the sweet, roasted flavor of the butternut squash, and complements the creaminess of the ricotta.
This butternut squash and bacon macaroni and cheese had me dancing around the kitchen singing “all that jazz”, complete with cheerleader hands going on and all. It’s just that good! Now I know you want to turn up some music, shimmy and shake while you eat yourself skinny with this macaroni and cheese! So, I will be quiet now and let you get to it. Enjoy and Cheers!
Macaroni and cheese gets a skinny makeover with a creamy butternut squash puree! Bacon is added for a touch of indulgence, making this the perfect mac n' cheese to satisfy all your cheesy mac cravings!
- 1 Pound Cavatappi Pasta (can substitute elbow macaroni or pasta of choice)
- 8 Slices Thick Cut Bacon – Cooked and Crumbled
- Butternut Squash Puree:
- 3 Pounds Butternut Squash (about 1 large)- peeled and cut into 1’’ cubes
- 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ Cup Chicken Stock
- 1 TBS Butter , room temperature
- 1 tsp Light Brown Sugar
- Salt and Pepper , to taste
- Mac’ and Cheese Sauce:
- 2 TBS Butter
- 1 large Yellow Onion - finely diced(about scant 1 cup)
- ¼ tsp Mustard Powder
- ¼ scant tsp Cayenne Pepper
- ¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Pepper
- 2 large Cloves Garlic - minced
- 1 ½ Cups Fat Free Half and Half
- ½ Cup Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
- 1 ½ Cups Sharp White Cheddar Cheese – grated(about 4 ½ oz.)
- Prepare the Butternut Squash Puree: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, for easy clean up. Place the cubed butternut squash on the baking sheet and drizzle olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the squash, turning once, for 25 minutes, or until cooked through and a fork can be inserted easily. While still hot, transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the chicken stock, butter, brown sugar, and ¼ tsp of salt. Process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Meanwhile: Cook pasta according to directions on box, in heavily salted water (as salty as the ocean), until al dente (do not overcook). Drain well and set aside.
- Make the Cheese Sauce: Melt butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add onions, mustard powder, cayenne, and nutmeg. Sauté until starting to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, measured salt and pepper. Sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Stir in the butternut squash puree.
- Add half and half, increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer. Immediately reduce heat to medium low. Cook until reduced slightly and thickened, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the ricotta cheese and stir until incorporated.
- Add in the cooked and drained pasta and stir to combine.
- Add the white cheddar cheese and cooked bacon. Stir until melted and combined. If the sauce appears too thick add extra half and half, a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
- Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve and enjoy!
*Read the recipe all the way through before preparing. The butternut squash puree gets added to the cheese sauce.
*The butternut squash puree can be prepared a day in advance.
*If you are using a small food processor or a blender, puree the butternut squash in two batches, halving all of the ingredients, and repeating pureeing process.
*Mac n’ Cheese can be reheated in the microwave or on the stove top. Add more half and half (tablespoon at a time) to help thin sauce when reheating.