Homemade Mac-N-Cheese (with hidden veggies!)

This recipe is a great way to sneak in some veggies.  The base of the cheese sauce is a Butternut Squash “Bechamel”.  I have to admit that it is fun to use fancy cooking terms like bechamel like it’s nothing!  I honestly didn’t even know what a bechamel sauce was until earlier this year (a simple Italian white sauce that is often the base for other sauces).  This turned out delicious and the boys loved it.  The batch made enough for two meals for our family.  I baked one up right away and froze the rest.

Homemade Mac-N-Cheese

Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2011

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5-6 cups)
2 c. chicken broth
2 1/4 c. milk
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 1/4 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 c. Romano cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 c. turkey ham, cubed
1 pound uncooked noodles (I used medium shells, but anything that holds the cheese sauce works – spirals, elbows, etc.)
cooking spray
2 tsp. olive oil
1 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes.

Place hot squash mixture in a blender.  Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt.  Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape) and secure the lid on the blender.  Place a towel over the lid to catch any splatters.  Blend until smooth.  (You may need to do this in two batches depending on blender size; I did.)

Pour squash mixture into a bowl and stir in the Gruyere, Romano, and half of the Parmesan cheese.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and add to the cheese mixture.  Stir in the ham at the same time and then spread evenly in a baking dish coated with cooking spray.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add panko and cook until golden brown (about 2-4 minutes).  Add in remaining Parmesan cheese and spread evenly over the pasta.

Bake uncovered at 375 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.  (If freezing, cover with tin foil and place in freezer before baking.  On serving day, simply thaw in fridge and bake as above or bake frozen covered for about 30 minutes before uncovering and baking additional 25-35 minutes until bubbly, hot, and golden on top).

Food for Thought: Another way to spice up this dish would be to dice up some red pepper into it or put some frozen peas in it.   I also thought that instead of ham, a few cans of tuna (drained) would be tasty. 

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