Mac and cheese is a favourite meal for many kids. The soft texture and creamy, cheesy sauce is usually a winner. This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese version has half a butternut squash blended into the sauce making it a healthier choice.
I love to cram in as many vegetables as I can to my kids' meals. This includes vegetables that are sitting loud and proud on their plates but also "hidden" vegetables. When I say "hidden" I don't actually mean that I am hiding the fact they are in there, I mean that they are usually cooked down or pureed into meals and are not really detectable in the meal.
WILL MY CHILD DETECT THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH?
- VISUAL – The butternut squash is pureed smooth and when added to the cheese sauce it turns the sauce a vibrant orange colour. The colour reminds me of American style cheese sauce that kids seem to love!
- TASTE – The butternut squash makes the cheese sauce quite sweet in flavour. I think it is very "kid friendly" but, of course, what one child loves another child can hate. If you have a fussy eater you may wish to start with adding a little puree and slowly add more as your child’s’ taste buds adapt.
HOW TO MAKE BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
- Bake the butternut squash until very soft. You need it soft so it will blend smooth. I didn't add any oil or seasoning to the squash but this is an option if you want to add more flavour to your sauce.
- Make your cheese sauce - Take your time over your sauce (read my cheese sauce tips here)
- Blend the butternut squash until smooth
- Mix the butternut squash puree and cheese sauce together until fully combined and smooth.
- Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and mix.
- Transfer to one large baking dish (or several small dishes)
- Sprinkle with cheese and panko breadcrumbs
BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE FOR BABIES/ TODDLERS
If your baby has progressed from purees or is doing baby led weaning then this would be suitable to make for your baby. To reduce the sodium level you could make a small portion for your baby and add less cheese (or even miss the cheese out.) I think that babies will especially love the sweet profile the butternut squash provides.
You could also add some herbs/spices or stir through some roasted veggies, to add more textures and flavours for your baby to explore.
STORING AND REHEATING
If you are making this dish ahead of time, to serve later in the day, cover the dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (do not add the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top at this stage). Preheat oven to 180C / 355F. Cover the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs just before baking and bake for approx 30 minutes. The top should be brown and bubbling and piping hot in the centre.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Preheat oven to 180C / 355F. You may wish to add more cheese and breadcrumbs before reheating. Bake until fully reheated, approx 30 minutes (depending on the size of dish/dishes).
Freeze in a covered freezer and oven proof dish (or dishes) for up to 3 months. To reheat, remove from the freezer and place in a preheated oven (175C/ 350F) until fully heated (around 1 hour depending on the size of dish/dishes) It is ready when piping hot and nice and creamy.
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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- ½ Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped peeled, seeded and chopped (weight after prepped 580g)
- 265g (2 cups) Macaroni Pasta
- 28g 2 tbsp Butter
- 18g 2 tbsp Flour
- 250ml (1 cup) Milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 145g (1 ¼ cup) Mature cheddar cheese, grated
- 25g (¼ cup) Panko Breadcrumbs
- Pre heat oven to 200c/ 400f, place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 20 mins (until soft)
- Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packaging, drain and set aside.
- Melt butter in a saucepan and add the flour to form a roux, stir continuously for about 2 minutes.Add milk a little at a time, keep stirring/whisking continuously between each pour. Stir out any lumps before adding more milk. Continue adding the milk little by little until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce is thick and glossy.
- Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the mustard and one cup (115g) of the cheese (reserving the rest for the topping.)
- Blend the sauce and pumpkin together and then mix through the pasta. Place in an oven proof dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake for around 15-20 minutes (until the top is bubbling and golden)
- I always use a mature cheddar to make a cheese sauce. I find it produces the best flavour. Any good melting cheese (e.g Colby, Tasty, Monterey Jack) will also work but may not produce the same flavour. Seek out the most mature/sharp versions so that you don’t have to add so much to get the desired flavour.
- If you are making this dish ahead of time, to serve later in the day, cover the dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (do not add the breadcrumbs and cheese for the top at this stage). Cover the top with the cheese and breadcrumbs just before baking and bake for approx 30 minutes. The top should be brown and bubbling and piping hot in the centre.
- If cooking for a baby/ young toddler you can reduce the amount of cheese you add, to lower the sodium levels.
- Why not try adding some herbs or spices to the dish. Oregano or rosemary work well.
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