Cheesy Butternut Squash Cavatappi Bake

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I always feel a little better about mac-n-cheese when it has a healthy twist—like the addition of butternut squash. This recipe is a great weeknight option for a healthy, fall-friendly mac-n-cheese. It’s more of a crunchy, baked mac-n-cheese than a creamy stovetop version (which is actually my preference), but I enjoyed it.

Cheesy Butternut Squash Cavatappi Bake (from Better Homes and Gardens, Sept. 2013; makes 6 servings)

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
8 ounces dried cavatappi or other elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
2 slices reduced-sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
Thinly sliced green onions (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine squash and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes; stir. Microwave, covered, about 4 minutes more or until squash is tender. Carefully remove plastic wrap. Mash squash; set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in squash. Add pasta. Gently fold to combine.

Transfer half of the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add remaining pasta and cheese. Top with bacon, if desired. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Top with additional green onions, If desired.

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