Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese
Mess Level: Moderate
Yield: 8 Servings
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 50 min
For the Mac:
- 1 lb Rigatoni
- ¼ Cup Flour
- ¼ Cup Butter
- 2 Cups Milk
- 1 Butternut Squash or 1 ½ Cups Squash Purée
- 2 ½ Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 2 Tablespoons Neutral Oil
- Salt to Taste
For the Topping:
- 1 ½ Cups Plain Bread Crumbs
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Sprig of Rosemary
Note: For a faster version of this recipe you may substitute canned pumpkin puree for the butternut squash puree and skip steps 2-4.
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
- Cut the ends off the butternut squash then split it lengthwise down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and then rub the cut side of the squash with oil and salt. You may not need all the oil.
- Place the squash cut-side down on a parchment-lined pan and roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes or until tender when pierced. When the squash is done, lower your oven temperature to 350 Fahrenheit.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh into a food processor and blend until completely pureed. You may also do this with an electric mixer (You will only be using 1 ½ Cups of squash puree for this recipe).
- While the squash is roasting, make the breadcrumbs. Strip the rosemary off the stem and mince it. Melt the butter and mix it into the breadcrumbs along with salt, garlic powder, and minced rosemary. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Measure out all your ingredients for the sauce. Once your squash puree & breadcrumbs have been made you may begin to make the mac n cheese.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it till it tastes like the ocean. Cook your pasta according to package directions, be careful not to overcook it.
- In a large cast-iron pan melt the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted whisk in the flour, it may clump and that’s ok.
- As soon as the flour is incorporated add half the milk and whisk briskly along the bottom. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens (This happens at boiling temperature), then add the remaining milk and repeat.
- Shut off your heat and add 1 ½ cups squash puree, mix it in well. Add salt to taste.
- While the sauce is still warm add the cheese a few handfuls at a time, whisking until it’s melted before adding more. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Mix the pasta in well until it's coated.
- Top with the rosemary breadcrumbs and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese bubbles. You can turn the broiler on the last few minutes of cooking if you’d like a browner top but watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. Enjoy!
Did You Make It? Tag Us!
- Gluten Free: Swap out your favorite gluten-free pasta, bread crumbs, & an all-purpose gluten-free flour.
- Vegetarian: Yes! This dish is naturally vegetarian.
- Vegan: Instead of using butter, milk, and cheese, use oil, an unsweetened alternative milk, and vegan cream cheese. You may also use nutritional yeast to add more flavor.
Meal Prep: Follow these steps if you want to prep ahead of time:
- Complete this recipe through step 11.
- Run the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking and toss it with a neutral oil. Store the pasta, the sauce, and the breadcrumbs separately.
- When you’re ready to make this recipe, warm the sauce in a pan or the microwave, stirring frequently. You will likely need to thin it with a little milk.
- Then complete steps 12-13, and expect additional bake time if you’re starting with cold pasta.
I have trouble getting my sauce to thicken.
Turn up the heat!
There are two things that could be happening:
- You are not allowing the sauce to get hot enough. Most thickening agents only activate at a boiling temperature.
- You let the roux burn to the bottom of the pan, also known as a “broken sauce” (This happens when you don’t keep stirring). See below how to fix this.
What happens if I broke my sauce?
You turned it up too high didn't you?
Never fear! As long as the sauce itself doesn’t taste burnt you can start a new roux in a fresh pot and then pour the sauce into it in intervals, waiting (and whisking!) until it thickens before you add more.
Sometimes my cheese turns grainy when I mix it in.
Assuming you didn't drop your cheese on the floor...
Typically this happens because your sauce is too hot or you might’ve added too much cheese too quickly. Once your sauce has thickened, I recommend turning off the heat and whisking for a full minute or more to cool it down, then add the cheese in batches rather than all at once.
Why can’t I add all the milk at once?
Go ahead... See what happens...
You risk breaking your sauce & also it is harder to whisk without spilling the runny milk over the sides. We’re trying to create an emulsion of milk & flour, this happens most easily when you work in small batches rather than adding everything at once.
Can I make this without a cast iron pan?
Definitely! Just pick any ole pot to make your sauce and toss your noodles in then transfer to your favorite casserole dish before adding the breadcrumbs.
Ramblings of a Line Cook
I distinctly remember standing over a very large stockpot in the very back of the kitchen during my first job as a prep cook. I was in the middle of making two gallons of white, sausage gravy for brunch the next day and I lifted onto my toes to peer into the pot, steam billowing around my face and making the whisps of hair escaping from the constricting baseball cap I was required to wear curl.
I had a two-foot whisk in my right hand that I dragged heavily through the pounds of butter, flour, sausage, and chopped onion, while my left hand-poured in a gallon of whole milk, which slopped heavily against the sides of the pot as my whisk made waves through the roux.
My arm burned from the effort of stirring and I labored another twenty minutes waiting in vain for the gravy to thicken. I finally had no choice but to go ask the sous chef what I was doing wrong - A shrewd looking man with large, red-rimmed glasses, wide eyes, and a pointy nose. He had the wiry build and stooping shoulders of someone that worked with their hands and arms all day and spent a good deal of time bending slightly forwards as he was very tall. I was terrified of him.
1lb of roux is enough to thicken a gallon of milk. It stood to reason that two lbs would be enough to thicken two gallons, however, I was still desperately stirring and the gravy in the pot remained soupy. The sous chef came briskly over and poked his large nose into the pot, the steam fogging up his glasses.
“You’ve broken it.” He said matter-of-factly and, much to my surprise, not at all put-out. In the five seconds, it took me to blink stupidly and ask what that meant he had found a clean spoon, dipped it precisely into the sauce and brought it up to his mouth for a quick taste check.
“The sauce broke because you let the roux burn to the bottom of the pan. It doesn’t taste burnt though so you can just start another roux in a new pan and pour this sauce on top of it. Be sure to whisk!” And just as quickly he was gone.
So off I went to the pastry line to weigh out more flour, to the walk-in for two more pounds of the every-present butter, and to the giant storage tub under the prep table filled with sweet, yellow onions. I made a new roux, somehow successfully transferred the broken sauce over in batches, and watched the gravy thicken like magic when it reached a boil, my whisk moving with mad determination along the bottom this time.
I dreaded going into work at that job every single day, but I learned! It taught me the beginnings of not only how to cook, but how to work in a professional kitchen, and lordy, did it ever teach me how to make a bechamel.