It’s not exactly a new idea, this concept of sneaking veggies into kid-friendly foods. But this was my first time to try it with macaroni. Now both the taste and the nutrition value of my mac-n-cheese have drastically improved.
All thanks to the butternut squash.
I bought my very first butternut squash several weeks ago and roasted it. Though it wasn’t a roaring success, I saw potential in this sturdy vegetable. I knew I wanted to experiment further. One of my readers suggested adding it to macaroni and cheese, so that’s where I headed next.
In the recipe I used, you boil peeled chunks of the squash until tender. Then you drain it and puree it with chicken broth, milk, a pat of butter, and a few spices.
This smelled so savory and flavorful when I opened the blender that I had to taste it. After one little forkful, I had another, and another.
It was totally worth the triple-dipping.
This puree was velvety smooth, with barely a hint of squash texture. I realized then why so many readers had suggested making a butternut squash soup after my initial roasting fail.
After making the puree, I poured it into a pot with drained, cooked macaroni, and some chunks of Velveeta cheese.
This creamy concoction was an excellent way to add nutrition to macaroni and cheese. For 2 1/2 (ish) cups of dry macaroni, I used only 8 oz of cheese. The rest was the butternut squash puree. Oh. So. Good.
The original recipe called for less dry macaroni, and I had to cook extra to make it a mac-n-cheese instead of a macaroni soup. Admittedly, I didn’t measure my squash into cups… I just used one large squash. Anyhow, we ended up with a ton of pasta. But none of it got thrown away! We had leftovers for lunch AND dinner the next day.
Normally mac-n-cheese doesn’t hold up so well for leftovers, but my husband said this was almost even better leftover. Gotta love that.
And if for some reason I don’t want a ton of leftovers next time, or if there’s a macaroni shortage, I can always set aside some of the squash after boiling to puree separately.
I love me some good veggie puree in the fridge. Pumpkin… sweet potato… butternut squash… They make a great excuse to bake muffins or make French toast… or pancakes! And I can squeeze in some extra vitamins for my kiddos. Always a plus.
I had to adjust amounts during the cooking process to get the macaroni-to-puree ratio just right. Next time, I’ll try it this way. Adapted from The Recipe Critic.
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into chunks
- 1/2 c. chicken broth
- 3/4 c. milk
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt and pepper, to taste*
- 16 oz macaroni, cooked and drained
- 8 oz Velveeta cheese
*Lavish the salt on the squash. Then taste after blending, just to be sure you’ve lavished enough.
- Place the squash chunks in a medium saucepan and fill the pan with water until the squash is covered. Boil until a fork slides through the squash easily, with no resistance. Drain the squash, and dump the now soft and tender chunks into a blender. Leave the lid off for at least 5 minutes, allowing the squash to cool slightly.
- While the squash is cooling, pour the chicken broth and milk over it. Drop in the butter. Tip in the smoked paprika. Shake in several shakes of salt and at least two shakes of pepper. Leave the blender to continue cooling.
- Cut up the cheese into approximately one-inch cubes. Plop them with the drained macaroni into a large saucepan. Set it on your stove without heat to await the butternut squash.
- Now your squash should be sufficiently cool (though still quite hot) to blend. Make sure the lid is securely fastened in place, and choose a medium setting. If your lid does not have venting holes in it around the edge of the stopper, remove the stopper and cover the lid with a kitchen towel. This will prevent the steam from building up inside the blender and causing a burning squash explosion all over your kitchen. Blend a few seconds at a time until the squash is smooth.
- Once the squash is a beautifully smooth texture, taste it and adjust with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
- Pour the squash over the macaroni and cheese. Stir gently to coat evenly. Place the saucepan over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until the cheese disappears into the creamy sauce.
- Taste the pasta, and again sprinkle in additional salt and pepper if necessary.
- Savor every creamy bite.