This is what I like to call black magic. How does a mac and cheese THIS creamy and cheesy and blissful have less than 300 calories per serving?
The secret is a near and dear friend of mine. A friend that goes by the name of butternut squash.
Yep. Sweet roasted butternut squash is officially a member of my dream team.If you’re thinking the addition of squash will make the mac and cheese too sweet, we have more secret ingredients to counteract that. Gloriously buttery nutty gouda cheese, savory bacon crumbles and one of my favorite go-to spices, smoked paprika. It all works in such perfect harmony.
I was majorly inspired to make this dish after tasting a gluten-free squash mac and cheese that my girlfriend brought to Friendsgiving last night. This was the only dish I made room for seconds for because it was THAT tasty. The one she brought was made with a few different cheeses, heavy cream and was finished off with a baked crust (ugh, heaven), but I wanted to experiment with some lighter options.I mean, most of us can agree mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, right? It’s probably the biggest crowd pleaser I know of. I actually can’t think of anyone I know that DISLIKES mac and cheese. Even the pickiest eaters can get down with a bowl of mac.
Of course it’s fantastically fabulous in its basic state, but adding caramelized apples, garlic, sage and bacon just brings it to another level. A level we may as well call heaven.
Sorry to the mac and cheese purists out there.
So in light of the upcoming holiday, do you guys eat mac and cheese on Thanksgiving? My family never has and I had no idea it was even a thing until a couple years ago. Crazy, right?! The gluttonous side of me feels slightly deprived, but I suppose one does not NEED mac and cheese in addition to 17 other side dishes. Or do I….? 😉You have to experience this healthy comfort food. I’m nutso over it.
- 2⅓ cups elbow pasta - I used Dreamfields
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into small cubes (~2½ cups)
- 4 slices of turkey bacon
- 1 small apple, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
- ½ cup reduced sodium chicken stock
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk - or milk of choice
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped sage
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Sea salt black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place butternut squash cubes on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to evenly coat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender, flipping at least once half-way through.
- Add the roasted butternut squash to a food processor and pour in chicken stock. Puree until smooth.
- Cook macaroni according to package instruction. Drain and return to pasta pot. Set aside.
- In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until crispy. Transfer to paper towels to remove excess grease and chop bacon into small pieces.
- Using the same skillet (maintained at medium heat), add apples and shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add sage and garlic and saute until aromatic, ~1 extra minute. Transfer all contents to a plate.
- Using again the same skillet (maintained at medium heat), add butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook for ~1 minute, whisking continuously. Add smoked paprika and slowly pour in milk, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a medium simmer to allow sauce to thicken (this should take ~6-7 minutes). Once sauce thickens, reduce heat to low and whisk in butternut squash mixture and gouda cheese. Continue to stir until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
- Pour sauce into pot to be combined with macaroni. Stir in apple and bacon mixture. Spoon into bowls and serve!