Creamy, Light Mac and Cheese

It really hasn’t been that long since I posted this version of macaroni and cheese, but really, who can resist a big bowl of cheesy macaroni when the weather starts to cool down? In our house, past macaroni and cheese recipes or not, there was no way my husband was going to allow me to not make this when he saw my September issue of Cooking Light. It was cover-love at its greatest 🙂

In reality, this macaroni and cheese recipe was the makeover recipe for September swapping pureed butternut squash for some of the cheese and fat in the traditional sauce. This one major swap cut the calories by almost 2/3. Crazy! Thinking there is no way that butternut squash could be a good replacement for cheese? In our opinion, it didn’t do too bad. It certainly wasn’t they Velveeta, gooey version of macaroni and cheese, but the squash actually keeps it quite creamy all while staying barely noticeable. If you are looking for that Velveeta version, you won’t find that here. What you will find is a pretty good mac and cheese that would fall within most diets. In fact, if you didn’t know the ingredients, it would be hard to pick squash out of the lineup. Perfect if you happen to know any vegetable haters. You don’t even have to lie about the name. They left the word ‘squash’ out 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipes)

Creamy, Light Mac and Cheese
From Cooking Light September 2011

Ingredients:
3 cups (1 lb) cubed, peeled butternut sqaush
1-1/4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups skim milk
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. fat-free Greek yogurt
1-1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup  (4 oz) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 oz) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided 
1 lb. uncooked elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
cooking spray
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender (or blend with an immersion blender if you have one as this step is much easier). Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of the blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid. Place a clean towel over the opening of the blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash in a bowl; stir in Gruyere, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 9×13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. 

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat the topping with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

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