Macaroni and cheese is probably my most requested comfort food in need of major lightening-up.  To be honest, I actually have a few versions that I think are delicious.  This one, with creamy butternut squash, is really wonderful.  What I love, is that it’s not just lightened up, but the squash adds so much nutritionally speaking and quite a bit in the flavor department.

 

The butternut creates a creamy texture and a very slight sweetness. I like to compliment that by using the sharpest white cheddar I can find and balance it all with a few shakes of Tabasco and a pinch  of mustard powder.

Butternut Baked Macaroni and Cheese - I love this lightened up version of traditional mac and cheese! It's so creamy with a crunchy panko top! | @tasteLUVnourish

Feel free to add some greens to this to amp-up the veggie factor even more! Try adding coarsely chopped broccoli, spinach or kale.  This makes a great side-dish or make it a complete meal by serving with a nice big salad.

Butternut Baked Macaroni and Cheese - I love this lightened up version of traditional mac and cheese! It's so creamy with a crunchy panko top! | @tasteLUVnourish

Butternut Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Serves: 8
 
You'll love this lightened up version of traditional mac and cheese! It's so creamy and satisfying with a crunchy panko top!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound butternut squash, cubed into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1¼ cup vegetable broth
  • 1½ cup milk (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 pound uncooked whole grain rotini pasta
  • olive oil
  • ½ cup whole wheat panko
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 12 inch round or 13x9 inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, combine the squash, garlic, vegetable broth and milk. Bring to a boil and reduce to a light simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you boil the pasta.
  3. Over high heat, bring a pot of water to a boil with a few pinches of sea salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  4. In a blender, or with an immersion blender, blend the squash mixture along with the Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, Tabasco and dry mustard. Add the grated cheese and just stir in.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and stir to coat.
  6. Pour the pasta mixture into the greased baking dish.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the panko with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Mix to combine using your fingers.
  8. Top the casserole with the panko mixture.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and slightly bubbly.
Notes
Use any milk you love. Keep things light by using a non-fat or low-fat milk or your favorite unsweetened and unflavored almond milk. I use 2% milk in this.

I love full fat Greek yogurt best, but lower fat or non-fat work well, too. Fage is my yogurt of choice. It isn't overly tart and adds a nice creaminess.

Super sharp white cheddar works so well with this, but I've also used a spicy Pepper Jack that is really nice. You might even try a reduced-fat cheese.

Adapted from Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese by Cooking Light

Butternut Baked Macaroni and Cheese - I love this lightened up version of traditional mac and cheese! It's so creamy with a crunchy panko top! | @tasteLUVnourish