[Healthier] Mac n' Cheese Recipe

When first I met mac n' cheese, we fell desperately in love. It's the perfect American food for an Italian girl--it's got the pasta, and the cheese, and that American twist that just gets me every time, the casserole element. This is also a dish that is known for a high caloric content.

Not that I am trying to be all health conscious or anything, but I have a healthier version. My mother in law once made mac n' cheese that included butternut squash, and I thought it was AMAZING! So, I began working on my own version of the recipe. After months of testing, here it is!

The butternut squash gives the dish a creamy texture and the color of the squash gives it that classic yellow color. This is a great way to sneak in extra servings of vegetables without the diner ever knowing it. They will be so busy shoveling it into their mouths, they won't even have time to ask why in the heck it tastes SO good! It's good without the guilt.

Cube up your butternut squash--you'll need about 3 cups. 

You know how the Most Interesting Man in the World doesn't always drink beer? 
Well, I don't always buy pasta, but when I do, I like Barilla. 

I like to go ahead and boil my pasta (according to the manufacturer's directions) while I am also boiling the squash.  When it's done, drain the pasta and place it in a big bowl and set it aside. 

You want to boil up your squash until it's tender, about 12-15 minutes. 

Then scoop it out. 

Then you are going to puree it in a food processor with 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk, which I prefer) 

Then, in a saucepan, you'll want to melt 1 tablespoon of bacon fat. 

A note about the bacon fat: it's awesome I love it, and I feel like throwing it away kills fairies, so I always save my for later use. It saves money reusing the bacon fat and it adds flavor. If you don't feel the same about bacon fat as I do, you can use butter instead. 

Dice half an onion, and about5 oz of cheddar cheese. I don't use yellow cheeses because they contain dyes and I think that is totally gross. But I won't judge you if you use yellow cheeses.... 

Fry up your onions in your melted bacon fat until they are translucent. 

Add to your onions/bacon fat the pureed squash, cheese, and some salt and pepper. Cook and stir the sauce over medium heat (and watch out for little spurts and bubbles!) until the cheese is completely melted. Don't forget to taste it at the end to be sure of your seasonings, and adjust accordingly. 

Remember when you set aside your pasta in a big bowl? Well now's the fun part--pouring the sauce on the macaroni! Give a nice stir, making sure it's all nicely combined. 

Then pour it in a 11 X 7 casserole dish. 

Then give it a healthy sprinkling of parmesan cheese.... 

And Italian bread crumbs..... 

And then bake it in the oven. You can also make it up to this point and stick it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it. I also like to put it on a LO Broil for about 5 minutes to get the top nice and golden and crispy. 

Serving suggestion: Serve the mac n' cheese alongside BBQ chicken and a salad. 

Time: 1 hour, plus 20-30 minutes for baking | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Medium 

You Will Need:

11 X 7 casserole dish 

3 cups diced butternut squash 
8 oz (1/2 box) elbow macaroni 
1/2 cup milk (I prefer almond milk) 
1/2 onion, finely diced 
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or butter) 
5 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into blocks 
salt & pepper, to taste 
parmesan cheese (to sprinkle) 
Italian style bread crumbs (to sprinkle) 


Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the squash to the boiling water and allow to boil until tender, about 12-15 minutes (test with a fork to assess doneness. The fork should slide through the squash easily.) 

Meanwhile, in another pot filled with water, boil the elbow macaroni according to the directions on the package. When it is finished, drain and place in a large bowl. Set aside. 

When the squash is finished, drain it from the water. Place the squash in a food processor and add 1/2 cup milk. Process until smooth and set aside. 

In a saucepan, melt the bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook for several minutes or until translucent. Add to the onion the squash puree, cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium. 

Cook and stir the sauce over medium heat until the cheese is completely melted. Taste the sauce to be sure of the seasoning and adjust if needed. 

Pour the sauce over the macaroni in your big bowl and stir to combine completely. Pour the pasta/sauce mixture into the casserole dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and then with bread crumbs.*

Place the casserole in a oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Put the oven on LO broil for the last 5 minutes to crisp the top. 


*At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the mac n' cheese up to one day or until you are ready to use it. When you are ready, pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Place the oven on LO Broil for 5 minutes at the end to crisp the top of the mac n' cheese! 


  1. I agree, I always save bacon fat. It adds so much flavor to dishes!

  2. Looks delicious I love the idea of adding butternut squash to mac & cheese. I love your blog. Keep posting!