Stealthy Healthy(ish) Mac & Cheese

Crikey. Did I just write those words? I did, didn’t I? Well, nothing can be done about it now. Kinda gotta keep moving from here.

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I don’t much like light food. Or rather, food that is supposed to be a light version of another food. Generally, this only means that it’s substandard. Seriously, if you’re going to do that and it’s not going to be good enough to please people – why not just give it a new name?

But I digress. It always sorta astounds me to realize just how fatty real mac & cheese is. A better way is certainly called for. I figured there are a couple of ways that I could get the thickness and body that the sauce would have if it was loaded down with cheese. Beans, like a soy or northern would both work, but there wouldn’t be much of a flavor gain from it. So, I turned to root veggies, like sweet potato or turnip. Finally, I decided to go with roasted butternut squash because of the flavor kick it would give the sauce. At this point, I’ve decided it’s actually better. My first real surprise in doing this was how much the squash roasting smelled like cheddar cheese. Oh, hell yeah, this is good.

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Who can argue with butternut squash with blue and cheddar cheeses? (And they’re made in or near MN.)

There are a couple of different choices you can make for the cheese. You can go with cheeses that really stand out in their own right or a lighter flavored cheese like gruyere to deepen the flavor of the butternut squash. Tis your choice. For the meat product I sauteed some prosciutto until it was crispish and then I tore it into bite sized pieces

Mac & Cheese
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1 butternut squash
6 cloves garlic
1/2 c cottage cheese
1 c milk
2 T rice flour
2 shallots, sliced thinly
(6 oz aged extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded – 4oz cheese curds (or big cubes of cheddar) 2 oz Parmesan finely grated or blue cheese, crumbled) or
(10 oz gruyere 3/4 shredded, 1/4 chunkily cubed)
2 oz parmesan, finely shredded & divided in half
salt & pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni
4oz salty cured meat product, (or faux pork product) cubed or sliced

Cut the squash in half and roast face down on a cookie sheet in a preheated 450°f oven for 35 minutes or so, until you can side a knife into it. Just toss the garlic cloves in husks on the sheet as well.

Let the squash cool for awhile and then peel off the skins. Cook the macaroni until it’s cooked through but still tough. Strain and set aside. Squish the garlic cloves out of their husks and into a new bowl. Mash in the squash. Add in the cottage cheese and mix until combined.

Preheat the oven to 400°f.

Put the rice flour in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in small amounts of the milk until it forms a paste. Whisk in the rest of the milk. Add in shallot and some salt and pepper. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so. If it gets too thick add in some more milk. Pour into the butternut squash mixture and combine. Add in half the shredded cheese and all the parmesan or blue. Spice to taste. Fold in the macaroni.

Transfer to a baking dish, or several individual dishes. Strategically place gruyere cubes or cheese curds on the dish and sink them into the center of the dish with your fingers. Re-spread the macaroni over the holes. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the shredded cheese.

Bake until the top is browned and bubbly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt & pepper and serve. (Near as I can figure with my loosey goosey math if this is divided into 10 servings it comes to a bit under 330 calories. And even folks who don’t care about eating the light stuff can’t get enough.)

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11 thoughts on “Stealthy Healthy(ish) Mac & Cheese

  1. Pingback:   Stealthy Healthy-ish Mac & Cheese by Health Tips

  2. What a great recipe! I love sneaking veggies into dishes where you either aren’t going to notice, or it really enhances the dish. Everyone could use a little more fiber and vitamins in their diet, but fooling yourself with “light” dishes, never did anyone any good. You end up eating twice as much to try to feel satisfied, or just never succeed, and eat something yucky. I love putting flavorful butternut squash in with pasta. I’ll have to make this!

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