The secret to this dish’s super creamy cheese sauce is the addition of one cup of pureed squash! Shhh… don’t tell the kiddes! I’m pretty sure if I didn’t tell my husband about this “secret ingredient” he never would have guessed it and it’s not easy to pull the wool over his eyes with stuff like that!
When the squash is pureed it’s super creamy and adds a richness to the dish, which I almost honestly like better than “normal” mac and cheese made without it. Plus since it’s orange, like the cheddar, there’s no evidence you added it. #sneakymommy.
You could definitely eat this dish right from the stove top instead of baking, but I really like the extra crispiness that the panko and a few minutes under the broiler gives it. When you combine the smooth cheese sauce and noodles with the crispy panko, you’ve got a meal the whole family will enjoy!
The dish does have a few steps that take a little extra time, but none of them are hard and you can even do a lot of the prep ahead of time, which is always nice! The end results are totally worth it guys! I hope you all give this recipe a try! Your family and waistline will thank you!
- 2½ cups elbow noodles
- 2 Tbs. butter
- ½ cup onion, finely diced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 Tbs. flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- ¾ tsp. ground mustard
- 1 cup butternut squash, pureed (homemade or store bought)*
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese
- 3 Tbs. panko bread crumbs
- Cook noodles according to package directions, set aside.
- Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and then saute onion and garlic for a few minutes, until softened and translucent.
- Add flour and stir to coat onions and garlic. Mixture will be thick. Cook, stirring mixture around for 1-2 minutes so flour taste has cooked out.
- Add milk and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until mixture has thickened.
- Add seasoning and then squash and stir to combine. Once stirred together, add the cheddar cheese and parmesean and stir once again to create a smooth cheese sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Pour in the cook elbow noodles and stir to coat all noodles.
- Pour macaroni in prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with 3 Tbs. panko bread crumbs.
- Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until panko is a golden brown. Keep an eye on the dish at this point so it doesn't burn.
- Once topping is brown, remove from the oven and serve!
- Re-heat instructions: If eating as left-overs, you may want to pour a little milk (like 1-2 Tbs) before microwaving to help "revive" the sauce. Because it only has 1 cup of cheese and the remainder squash, it needs a little help to regain its cheesiness.
*Recipe adapted from Natalie at Life Made Simple