My son and his wife posted a picture on social media of a Trader Joe’s shopping cart filled with five packages of frozen Butternut Mac and Cheese. We all know Trader Joe’s has great marketing. They bring in seasonal items, people buy them and before you know it, there are none to be found anywhere. A simple economic principle of supply and demand.
Well, I am the one who could not find the butternut mac and cheese anywhere. So I decided to make it at home. I wanted to know what all the hype was about for Butternut Mac and Cheese. I used my son and DIL as taste testers to know if I had hit the mark. Wow, this stuff is so good! Butternut Mac and Cheese has a buttery, mellow squash taste that pairs well with cheese, milk and butter. If you cannot find the prepackaged dish at Trader Joe’s, you have to give this recipe a try!
How to Make Butternut Mac and Cheese
1. Buy a butternut squash that is about 8-10 inches long. The bottom half of the squash does not have much squash. It has an empty cavity with seeds threading through it, like the inside of a pumpkin.
This squash can be hard to peel, but I have a trick. Set the squash in front of you with the stem on the left and the bottom on the right. Put your knife in front of you and come straight down on the squash. Now you have half of the squash with the stem on your left and the bottom is on your right. The stem part of the squash has a lot more meat on it. Cut across the top of this part and make 1/2 inch rounds. These rounds need to be cut in half. Now you can easily use a small knife and take the hard skin off the outside of these pieces of squash. Once the skin is off, cut the squash meat into 1/2 inch cubes.
Cutting and peeling the squash is half the battle. You can always purchase already peeled and cut squash too!
On the bottom half, clean out all seeds and threads with an ice cream scoop. Once this is done, cut this bottom in half and then cut across the squash into 1/2 inch rounds. Then use the small knife again to peel off the hard skin on the outside.
2. Once you get all the squash cut, peeled and cubed, you will probably have anywhere from 4-5 cups of squash. Put all the squash on a large cookie sheet. Pour 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the squash and use your hands to mix it all together. Put this tray in the oven at 400° and cook for 40 minutes until squash is fork tender. Stir the squash pieces every 10 minutes to ensure everything cooks evenly.
3. While the squash is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 16 minutes. The package instructions say 12 minutes, but I do not think the noodles are soft enough.
Save some of the pasta water to use later. You will need it to thin out the butternut, milk, and cheese sauce.
4. Also, while the squash is cooking get the cheeses grated. I am not a fan of grated cheese you purchase in the store. The manufacturer’s put a powder coating on it to keep it from sticking together. Fresh cheese always produces a creamier sauce.
5. Once the squash is cooked through, put it in a blender or a food processor. Before turning the machine on, drop in the butter and have the milk ready to pour in the spout. Put the butter in with the squash and start pulsing. After 5 pulses, turn the machine on and pour the milk into the squash through the spout in the lid. The squash will be thick and needs to be thinned as you are pureeing it.
This process creates a beautiful, creamy sauce that is the base of your mac and cheese. Put this in a large skillet and heat on low. When the sauce begins to boil, add the cheese. Stir continuously until the cheese is melted.
You can use any cheese you have at home. I have made this several times with very good cheese and then again with cheaper store brand cheese. Every time I make it, there are never any left overs. White cheddar combined with a medium cheddar is my favorite combination.
6. Drain the pasta, but keep 2 cups of pasta water. Drop the drained noodles in the skillet with the squash and cheese mixture. Use a large spoon to toss the noodles in the sauce. Pour in the left over pasta water to get the consistency you want. I use about 1 cup of pasta water.
7. It is ready to serve!
Let me know on Instagram or Pinterest if you make this.
Post a picture and tag me @dinasdiner. I want to know how it turns out.
Here are a few of my favorite products when making Butternut Mac and Cheese
Butternut Mac and Cheese
- 3 Cups Butternut Squash
- 1 lb. Rigatoni Pasta
- 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 Cups Milk
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
- 2 Cups Cheese
- Peel and cube the butternut squash or buy squash already cut and peeled.
- Place the cubed squash on a large cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil.
- Bake at 400° for 40 minutes. Turn the pieces of squash every 10 minutes.
- Grate the cheese. You can use cheddar or a combination of sharp, white and cheddar.
- Get a large pot of salted water boiling. Put the pasta in the pan and cook for 16 minutes.
- Once the squash is done, place the hot squash in a food processor or a blender. Put the butter in with the squash and start pulsing. After 5 pulses, turn the machine on and pour the milk into the squash through the spout in the lid.
- Once the squash mixture is smooth, pour into a large skillet and bring to a gentle boil on medium low.
- Add the cheese and stir until it is melted. If the sauce is too thick, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and stir until blended.
- When the pasta is done, drain it and pour into the squash and cheese mixture. Use more pasta water if the sauce is too thick.