Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Apple

Every recipe I come across with butternut squash gets bookmarked. Even though I have shared more pumpkin recipes than butternut squash, it is the squash which wins my heart this season. What held me back from using it more thus far was that it required more effort than opening a can of pumpkin (aka lazy). But then I saw that this recipe called for canned butternut squash, who knew that existed!? Actually, I am still convinced that it doesn’t because I could not find it. However, it was located in the freezer section and I would prefer to use frozen over canned anyway.

There are so many other flavors mixing alongside the butternut squash in this recipe. Most of them made sense, but the apple wasn’t something I would immediately think of when pondering upon the anatomy of macaroni and cheese. Upon the first bite, I was a little skeptical still, but the more I ate the more I grew to love it. And then it was all gone and I needed to help myself to seconds. Technically this should serve four, but it was more like two servings in my house. Sometimes gluttony wins, and it’s a good thing this meal is secretly healthy (which my last mac and cheese I shared definitely was not).

BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS, BACON AND APPLE

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

8 oz. whole grain elbow macaroni (half of a 16 oz. box)

1 cup canned butternut squash, pureed

1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp evaporated milk

1 oz. reduced fat cream cheese

1 tsp salt

1 whole medium crispy apple, chopped or grated

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

4 Tbsp crumbled bacon (about 2 slices)

Directions:

  1. Heat butter in a skillet over low heat. When melted, add onions and let them caramelize for at least 30 minutes for the best flavor. Keep heat on low/low-medium.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Then drain it and return to the pan over low heat. Add butternut squash, chicken broth, evaporated milk, and cream cheese. When everything is combined, add in salt and mix to combine.
  3. Add onions and apples to the pasta. Stir to combine and add a tablespoon more of broth or milk if needed.
  4. Just before serving, mix in the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Serve! Top each serving with 1 tablespoon bacon.

(NOTE: Because there’s very little butter, it can “dry out” quickly, especially once off the heat. Add a tablespoon of water, milk, or broth to get it back to its original creaminess.)

Source: Adapted slightly from Pinch of Yum.

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