This recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence’s cookbook for babies and kids, Starting Fresh. His recipe “sneaks in” pureed butternut squash and milk in place of a cheese sauce in this twist of a classic dish. I used his same idea and basic recipe but doubled the amount of cheese (and it still wasn’t super cheesy) and increased the amount of milk. This baked pasta looks like macaroni and cheese, but it isn’t. It is much sweeter in flavor than mac and cheese and definitely needs some pepper to round out the flavor. I imagine that kids, though, would really like the simple, sweet and mild flavor of this dish. This recipe is perfect for a healthy family meal. Plus it's quick and super easy to make, and can be made up ahead of time.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
1 medium (1 to 1 1/2 pounds) butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh ground pepper
12 ounces pasta shells
3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and core. Place the squash in a roasting dish and coat with the olive oil. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes, or until you are able to handle it. Scrape the flesh into a blender or food processor; add the milk and puree until smooth. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water has come to a rapid boil, add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta and cook, according to the package, until al dente, tender. To test the pasta, remove one noodle and bite the center of the noodle; it should be tender but not chalky. When the pasta is al dente, drain, and return back to the cooking pot. Add the pureed butternut squash mixture and half of the cheese. Stir together and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a baking dish approximately 9 by 9 inches. Top the pasta with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese and sauce are bubbling, about 10 minutes, or at this point the pasta can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for a few hours or overnight. Let come to room temperature or increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes if the pasta is cold going into the oven. Serve warm.