baked butternut squash and bacon mac & cheese

Butternut squash is not something I usually crave.

I just don’t ever walk by it in the grocery store and think ‘man, I’ve gotta have some of that!’

But…  when it shows up in my kitchen (from a farm-share or Bountiful Baskets, for example) I always end up enjoying it much more than I expected!

This recipe is a perfect place to put your butternut squash.  Especially if you’ve never tried it or if you’re not sure if you like it.

Cheesy, gooey, creamy mac & cheese, with a lovely sweet background from the squash.  You really can’t go wrong with this dish!

Especially with all that bacon…  how could it not be good?!

(And the healthy squash cancels out all the other not-so-healthy stuff right?  Right??)

Oh, and in case you were wondering…  this earned rave reviews from 10 year old Navy, who was completely convinced it would be disgusting!

Baked Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac & Cheese Recipe
adapted from How Sweet It Is
serves 6-8

1 butternut squash, peeled & cut into about 2″ pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lb penne (or other short) pasta
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4oz cream cheese
1 cup crumbled bacon
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese, divided (1/2 cup + 1/2 cup)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided (1/2 cup + 1/2 cup)
crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a large rimmed-baking sheet with foil.

Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and salt, pepper & nutmeg until evenly coated.  Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once after about 20 minutes.

Once the butternut squash is golden and tender, remove it from the oven.  Dump it into a large bowl and mash well with a potato masher until fairly smooth;  Set aside.

Cook the noodles according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and melt the butter in the pan.

Stir in the onions with a bit more salt & pepper and let cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and just starting to brown a bit on the edges.

Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and stir in the milk, cream and cream cheese, stirring occasionally to let everything melt and warm up.  Stir in the butternut squash purée, taste for seasoning and turn off the heat.

Once the noodles are cooked, scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.  Drain the noodles and toss them into the pan with the sauce, adding as much of the reserved pasta water as you need to coat the pasta evenly.

Stir in the crumbled bacon and 1/2 cup of each cheese and then dump everything into a buttered 9×13″ pan.

Toss the remaining cheeses together and sprinkle them over the top of the pasta.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until everything is bubbly and golden on top!

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