Healthy Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese

Update on the surgery (in case you’re curious or missed the memo that this blog is going to get pretty boring for the next two months.  Everything went well on Monday and my foot is supposedly straightened but I can’t confirm that (I NEVER ever look at the surgery site until its completely healed, it really grosses me out).  I’m definitely in pain now that the block wore off, but trying to keep busy by blogging a few posts that I didn’t get to before the operation and working on photo books.  Hopefully these sentences make sense because vicodin and I don’t always play nice together.  Moving on…

This recipe was on the cover of one of my recent issues of Cooking Light that came in the mail.  Branden and I were really curious about this recipe, especially as lovers of homemade mac.  I was really unsure about subbing heavy cream and pounds of cheese with low fat milk and butternut squash.  How could this possibly be delicious (or at least taste like traditional mac and cheese)?  Seriously, Branden came home from work while I was throwing it in the oven and asked if I had high hopes for it…I admitted I still wasn’t sure.

To our suprise, this is actually good.  Like, really good.  For those of you with kids that hate veggies, try this out, they won’t ever suspect there’s a pound of squash hidden in there.  Cooking Light somehow found a way to take a traditionally 900 calorie meal and make it about 400 calories per serving (I think they were so successful because of the cheeses chosen – much stronger cheeses than in most mac and cheese dishes).  That in and of itself is enough to make me add this recipe to my collection.  Is it as good as its full-fat sibling?  Not quite (because let’s be honest, cream and lots of gooey cheese is hard to compete with), but it is pretty darn close.  Branden and I both really enjoyed this recipe and will be making it again for sure.

I did add a couple things to this recipe to make it a little more adult-ish…nutmeg, white pepper, and truffle oil.  These three flavors lended a earthy taste to the dish that I really liked.  Omit them for a more classic taste (and the original recipe).


  • 3 c. cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1-pound squash)
  • 1 1/4 c. fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 TBS truffle oil
  • 2 TBS fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 c. (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1 c. (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1 lb. uncooked cavatappi
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender (you can also totally use an immersion blender here if you have one – I did because I hate dirtying extra dishes). Add salt, pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, truffle oil, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

 Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Categories: American, Entrees, Pasta, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Healthy Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese

  1. Glad there weren’t any complications. Strong, sharp cheese does go a long way. We always use milk with a roux, so I bet our mac and cheese is like 750 or 800 calories per serving tops! Oy vey…. This does look good.

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