mac and cheese and squash?

Like many Americans we love macaroni and cheese, a classic American comfort food dish, but as longtime subscribers to Cooking Light, we have also tried various ways to lighten up the fat content over the years, although in the end we aren't really committed to avoiding the several tablespoons of butter in the white sauce and don't worry much about the cheese fats, often using more exotic cheeses in the mix if they happen to be on hand. This innovative recipe came to us while ani was watching the food network at an odd time as bob graded tests one weekend (and hence was not paying attention) and caught this neat idea from a show we had not seen before, and shortly afterwards, we implemented the recipe. bob was a bit skeptical at first but is always game to try new things. We'd already stuck in some broccoli influenced by Rachel Ray and that was good, and at other times some garlicky red pepper to inject a bit of color and zing into the mix. Why not a little squash puree?

In fact this is easier to make than the usual white sauce first recipe, and attains that cafeteria-like mac' n cheese deep orange color without overloading it with food coloring or whatever it is they do to get that creamy yummy orange product AND if desired allows an optional reduction in fat content, although we again did not worry much about this aspect of the dish.


the staples
cooking spray
1 lb elbow macaroni, or equivalent healthier grain pasta product (whole wheat penne)
1 (ellie says 2!) 10oz package frozen winter squash puree, thawed
2 c milk, we use fat free
the cheeses
ellie says: 4 oz (1 1/3 c) extra sharp grated cheddar, 2 oz (2/3 c) grated Monterrey Jack, 1/2 c part skim ricotta cheese;
BUT you can use any equivalent combination for your variation, we just used cheddar and gruyere
the spices
1 t salt
1 t powdered mustard
1/8 t cayenne pepper
the topping
2 T unseasoned breadcrumbs (maybe more)
2 T grated parmigiano
1 t olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° and spray a 9x13 or equivalent baking dish with cooking spray. You probably have your favorite mac'n cheese dish, no?
  2. Boil the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5-8  minutes, then drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile (read ahead for this!) mix together the thawed squash and milk like it were canned condensed soup and warm it up until it is almost simmering. If you forgot to thaw the squash, you can fight with it by thawing it in the milk trying to break it up bit by bit as you try to do this step.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses and spices, then dump over the pasta and stir together until nicely mixed and then dump into the baking dish.
  5. Mix the topping and sprinkle/spread it over the macaroni mixture.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes and then finish it off by broiling for about 3 minutes to crisp the topping nicely, but watch it so you don't burn the product!


  1. Healthy Appetite with Ellie Kreiger, on the Food Network in 2007. Macaroni and 4 Cheeses. Some of the reader reviews complained about too much squash, so our 50 percent reduction was probably a good idea, others about blandness, but I guess we were generous enough with the spices that this was not a problem.
  2. Actually Rachel Ray also has a version of this: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. She sautés some chopped onion in butter first, and then stirs in some flour to thicken the 2 c chicken broth added in next and then adds the (thawed) frozen squash, finally using cheddar and parmigiano, and nutmeg and pepper for the spices in addition to fresh thyme added earlier to the squash mixture, with a cup of cream or half and half for creaminess. Check it out. Use your imagination.
  3. This became a regularly repeated dish and our new mac and cheese standard. Inadvertently on one occasion we returned closer to Rachel's version in a burst of imagination (we never read the recipe details in the kitchen), starting with sautéing in olive oil an onion and a quarter red pepper chopped and then it turned out we were out of milk but had a cup of half and half left in the fridge, not enough to make it really liquidy so we made a cup of béchamel to stretch it out to 2 cups, then sharpened it with a touch of hot red pepper powder. Yummo!
  4. Illustrations available.
macnchznsqsh.htm: 12-aug-2008 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]