I try to eat a pretty healthy and mostly unprocessed gluten-free diet, but I do love mac and cheese. This is my new favorite way to make it—a healthier cheese sauce that uses pureed butternut squash and milk as the base with just a bit of shredded cheese, topped off with cheese and buttered breadcrumbs, and baked in the oven until it’s bubbly inside and toasty on top. This is also a great way to get picky kids to eat vegetables—the sauce tastes cheesy, not squashy! For an extra bit of richness, use whole milk instead of 2%.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked butternut squash
1 ¼ cup 2 % milk
½ tsp sea salt + more to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lb gluten-free pasta (macaroni, penne, ziti, or rigatoni are best)
1½ cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/3 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp melted butter
Finely minced herbs for garnish
Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan or a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place a large pot of salted water to boil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat a skillet over a medium flame. Add olive oil, onion, and garlic and sauté 6-8 minutes until the onions are soft. Remove from heat and add squash, 1 cup of milk, ½ tsp salt, and pepper. Using an immersion blender, blend squash mixture until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a food processor or blender and puree in batches.
Add additional ¼ cup of milk as necessary, you want a thick sauce but you don’t want it too chunky. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella and additional salt and pepper to taste.
Once the water is boiling, cook pasta until very al dente (3-4 minutes less than you would normally cook it, this will help prevent the pasta from becoming mushy as it cooks longer in the oven). Drain pasta and return to pot. Add squash sauce and stir until all of the pasta is evenly coated. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Stir bread crumbs into melted butter. Top pasta with remaining mozzarella and buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes until the cheese and breadcrumbs are toasty and the edges of the pasta are browned.
Top with your favorite fresh herbs such as basil or parsley.
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