Healthy Recipe: Butternut Mac & Cheese

Healthy recipe for butternut mac and cheese

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Mac and cheese is classic comfort food, but it doesn’t have to be a butter bomb. Stir pureed butternut squash directly into the sauce, to create that creamy texture, while slashing saturated fat. Whole-grain pasta, winter veggies, and low-fat milk are ingredients you can feel good about, to nourish body and soul.

Panko breadcrumbs have the biggest, crispiest flakes, and they come in whole-wheat varieties. But if you can’t find them, substitute 15 to 20 whole-wheat crackers, whirled in a food processor to create crumbs. Or skip the crunchy topping altogether if you prefer a creamy dish.


Olive oil cooking spray
Kosher salt
8 oz (250 g) whole-grain pasta shells
3 cups (15 oz/470 g) cubed butternut squash
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1½ cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) low-fat milk, warmed
8 oz (250 g) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
½ cup (¾ oz/20 g) whole-wheat breadcrumbs, preferably panko (see note)
½ cup (2 oz/60 g) grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) degrees. Spray an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with olive oil.

Bring a pot full of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, stopping 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time. Drain, rinse with cool water, and return to the pot. Set aside.

Place the butternut squash on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and toss to coat. Season lightly with salt. Roast until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the squash to a food processor and process until smooth.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butternut squash puree and milk and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer. Add the cheddar cheese, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the cooked pasta, and stir to coat.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Spoon the butternut mac and cheese into bowls and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories 400
Protein 21 g
Total fat 17 g
Saturated fat 10 g
Carbs 44 g
Fiber 7 g
Total sugars 6 g
Added sugars 1 g
Sodium 408 mg

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