This is the easiest butternut squash mac and cheese you’ll ever make. There’s no need to peel the squash OR blend it once it’s cooked. The soft, roasted flesh will break down as the pasta cooks, creating that gorgeous, silky sauce that sings of comfort food season.
I honestly was a bit sceptical of mixing butternut squash with pasta. I had visions of it being too sweet and cloying, but seriously? This is a wonderful combination. The sweet nuttiness of the squash is gorgeous with the cheese and roasted garlic, and I love the rich flavour you get by roasting it.
I’m using the same technique for the mac and cheese itself as I use in my spicy mac and cheese recipe, where everything, including the pasta, is cooked in one pot. There’s no need to make a bechamel, so no flour or butter is needed, and you still end up with a gorgeously creamy, rich sauce. As the pasta cooks, it releases starch into the sauce, helping it thicken and become lovely and glossy.
Roasting the squash might take a bit more time, but I promise it’s worth it. Plus, you can always roast the squash and garlic in advance (they’ll be fine in the fridge for a few days) which will make the mac and cheese super fast to make. All you have to do is add the rest of the ingredients to a pan, and it’ll be ready within 15 minutes. A gorgeous, comforting and cosy winner perfect for cooler evenings or as part of a holiday spread.
This is a brilliant recipe that uses minimal ingredients – and uses the squash two ways if you make the crispy smoky seeds too.
- Butternut squash. One large butternut squash is all you need here – you’ll end up with about 2 cups of squash flesh after roasting. You could use frozen cubed butternut squash instead if you like.
- Garlic. Because we’re roasting the squash, I love to roast whole garlic heads with it. The garlic becomes super sweet and mild after roasting, so it’s not super garlicky – but cut it down to one head of garlic if you prefer.
- Pasta. Any short shape will do – I’ve used gigli which is a little spiralled cone-shaped pasta – but you can use what you have to hand.
- Cheese. I’ve gone for a mix of mature cheddar and gruyere – both have a lovely strong flavour and melt well, but you could play around with your cheeses. Creamy blue cheese is great, as is parmesan or manchego. Just make sure you’re using something reasonably strong so the flavour cuts through the squash.
- Fish sauce. The secret ingredient I add to so many recipes is incredible here to add a gorgeous hit of savoury umami flavour. It doesn’t taste fishy at all – but you can use soy sauce or miso paste instead if you’d like to keep this vegetarian.
- Milk and stock. These provide extra flavour and richness to the mac and cheese, but you could use water if you like. I’m using vegetable stock, but chicken will also work well, and you can swap regular milk for your favourite plant-based alternative.
How to make it
Cut your squash right down the middle and scoop out the seeds (but don’t throw them away!) Drizzle the exposed sides of the squash with olive oil, then chop off the tops of your heads of garlic, then place them in the space where the seeds were. Place the squash and garlic cut side down on a lined baking tray, then transfer to the oven for about 45 minutes, to get super charred, roasted and caramelised.
While the squash roasts, make your crispy squash seeds and prosciutto for your crunchy topping. Once the squash is super soft, scoop out the flesh straight into your large, high-sided pan with the pasta. Squeeze the garlic from their skins, then add the fish sauce, salt, stock, milk and Dijon mustard.
Stir everything to combine well with the pasta, then cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente (cooked, with a little bit of a bite to it) and the sauce has thickened up. PRO TIP: Depending on the pasta you use, you might want to add a little more milk, stock or water.
Once your sauce is looking lovely and thick and the pasta is cooked, add both cheeses and a good grind of black pepper. Stir through the pasta as the cheese melts into the sauce, then top with the crispy seeds and prosciutto and dig in.
Got a question?
You can roast the squash and the garlic up to 3 days in advance, then just keep them in the fridge. That way, when you want to make the mac and cheese all you have to do is combine everything in your pot and stir occasionally.
If you want to make the whole thing in advance, take a couple of minutes off the initial cooking time of the pasta, so it’s still a little firm in the sauce when you add the cheese. That way, you’ll mitigate the problem of the pasta absorbing too much liquid and losing its texture while sitting in the sauce. You can do this one day in advance, then cover it with aluminium foil and reheat it in the oven at 180C/356F fan for about 15 minutes, until piping hot. I like to add a splash of water when I do this, just to help the sauce loosen up again.
The recipe uses fish sauce so it’s not vegetarian as written, however, you can use a vegetarian fish sauce (they’re often made with mushrooms) or use miso paste or soy sauce instead. You can also skip the optional crispy prosciutto.
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If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you! You can leave me a comment below.Print