This here Mac-n-Cheese is balanced enough to be your sole meal prep entree – or a delicious side to a full meal. I’ll let you decide. <<or do both like us – side dish for dinner, then leftovers for meal prepped lunches>>
When we build healthy meals, they need to be a balance of protein, complex carbs, fats, and vegetables. Sometimes I pack those veggies in tight – like the meal prep Winter Salad or Balsamic Red Lentil Salad. This one the veggies are more discrete – as in blended into the cheese sauce and completely out of sight. If you don’t want to bother with the immersion blender or regular blender, you can just leave the butternut squash in chunks.
I recommend using the Barilla Protein+ pasta or a higher protein bean-based pasta <like Banza, red lentil, or chickpea pasta> if you want this to be a full meal. If you’re using it as a side dish with a protein entree, it really doesn’t matter what pasta you use. Also, if you are using this to carb load for a race – use the white stuff!!! Most people find their GI tract likes them a little better if they carb load on white carbs.
Did I mention I highly recommend this for meal prep? It keeps really well in the refrigerator and warms up unbelievably creamy for a healthier mac-n-cheese. Not to mention, mac-n-cheese for lunch does wonders for your midday happiness factor. << FYI: I used 2 cup glass containers for this recipe vs the 4 cups for the other meal prep salads that had a lot more veggies.>>
For some reason the glass containers I got from Aldi are frosty and my Pyrex ones are clear in this picture but not real life. Riddle me that.
Who said meal prep has to be boring?!
Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese
Servings 6 (2 cups)
14 oz box Barilla Protein+ pasta, elbows (sub: your favorite pasta)
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 heaping Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (sub: 1 tsp dried thyme)
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable broth (sub: chicken broth)
10 oz frozen butternut squash
1 cup evaporated milk (sub: 2% or whole milk)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
8 oz block white cheddar cheese, shredded
- Cook pasta according to box. Drain. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and thyme. Cook for 2 – 4 minutes or until onions are soft. Add flour. Cook for 2 more minutes stirring constantly.
- Whisk in broth and add steamed butternut squash. Bring to a boil, whisking for 5 minutes. It will start to thicken. Add evaporated milk, nutmeg and salt. Allow it to boil again, 3 – 5 minutes.
- Optional: use an immersion blender to smooth the sauce, or transfer to a blender. This was imperative in our household. But if you don’t have a blender, feel free to leave the bigger chunks of butternut squash in the sauce.
- Turn off heat. Add cheese. Whisk until melted. The sauce will thicken as the cheese melts and it sits.
- Add the pasta back to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine.
- Use gluten free macaroni and flour in the sauce, if needed.
- Don’t have evaporated milk? You can use regular milk – it just won’t be quite as creamy.
- This keeps really well in the refrigerator <for 5 – 6 days> and freezer <for 2 – 3 months>.
- It’s really worth the extra step of shredding your own block of cheese. It makes for a much smoother sauce.
Athletes: If you haven’t caught on yet, I absolutely love to pack everything you need to support your training into one dish for lunches. This mac-n-cheese fits the bill too. A heaping 2 cup serving gives you 25 gm protein and 60 gm carbs – eat more than 2 cups on a hard training day.
Healthy Eating: Feel free to eat this as your meal – it’s well balanced! Or, use it as a side dish with a protein and veggie. One night eat ate this with salmon and roasted broccoli and it was very satisfying.
Kids: My daughter calls this ‘my faaaaaavorite mac-n-cheese’ and girl can put it AWAY. If your kids are veggie averse, make sure to puree the butternut squash into the cheese sauce and they won’t even know it is there. My son still prefers the box. You win some, you lose some. <More for my meal prep!>