Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Butternut squash is roasted until tender before being mixed into a homemade cheese sauce. The Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is then baked until it reaches golden brown perfection!
One of the most popular recipes on my site is my homemade stovetop mac and cheese. It’s a 30-minute recipe that results in perfectly creamy macaroni and cheese every single time.
The recipe I’m sharing in this post is a fall spin on that mac and cheese. To make it seasonally appropriate, I made the mac and cheese with butternut squash and topped it with crispy fried sage leaves.
The butternut mac and cheese is made primarily on the stovetop, but I like to finish it off in the oven to crisp up the panko breadcrumbs on top.
Enjoy this mac and cheese as a side to your favorite entrees — such as baked chicken breasts, pork chops, steak, or your holiday favorites — or serve larger portions to eat as a main dish!
Ingredients in Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
This may be a slightly elevated take on regular mac and cheese, but the ingredients are all easy to find and budget-friendly. To make the homemade mac and cheese with butternut squash, you’ll need the following:
- Butternut squash
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Unsalted butter
- Fresh sage
- All-purpose flour
- Grated nutmeg
- Cheese (I used Asiago and Monterrey Jack)
- Pasta (I recommend macaroni, cavatappi, or rotini)
- Panko breadcrumbs
How to Make Mac and Cheese with Butternut Squash
This recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese has a few extra steps than the classic stovetop version, but it’s still incredibly easy to prepare. Here’s an overview of how the recipe comes together:
- Roast the butternut squash: I’ve given detailed instructions on how to do so in the recipe card below.
- Cook the pasta: While the squash roasts, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside until ready to use.
- Fry the sage leaves: In large oven-safe skillet (I used cast iron), melt the butter over medium heat and then add the sage leaves and cook until crisp. Remove the sage from the skillet, chop, and set aside.
- Make the cheese sauce: Add the flour to the same skillet, whisking to combine with the remaining melted butter.
- Add milk, nutmeg, salt, and black pepper, whisking until smooth.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened.
- Reduce the heat to low before adding in the shredded cheeses.
- Add the sage, cooked pasta, and roasted squash, stirring gently to combine.
- Bake: Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown.
Can This Recipe Be Made without a Cast Iron Skillet?
Absolutely! Simply use a regular skillet to prepare the cheese sauce, then stir in the pasta and transfer the mixture to a baking dish before finishing in the oven.
This will mean more dirty dishes for you to clean, but otherwise it’s very easy to make this recipe without an oven-safe skillet.
Can This Recipe Be Made in Advance?
Absolutely! You can prepare the entire recipe up to 5 days in advance and reheat leftovers as desired. Or, you can prep elements of the recipe in advance:
- Pasta: Cook until al dente, drain very well, then toss with olive oil before storing in an airtight container. Can remain in the fridge up to 2 days before using.
- Butternut squash: Can be roasted up to 4 days in advance.
- Cheeses: Can be shredded up to 4 days in advance. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh.
Recipe Variations to Try
- Swap the squash: I love making butternut squash macaroni and cheese, but you can achieve similar results by roasting another kind of firm squash. I just don’t recommend roasting stringy squashes such as acorn squash or spaghetti squash.
- Add a protein: Meal prepped chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken can be stirred into the mac and cheese to bulk it up.
- Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta and use a 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour substitute.
- Make it creamier: For even richer and creamier mac and cheese, replace 1/2 cup of milk with heavy cream or half and half.
- Keep it stovetop-friendly: Oven space limited around the holidays? Omit the panko breadcrumbs and skip baking the butternut mac and cheese. You’ll miss the crispy topping but otherwise the recipe will still deliver super creamy stovetop mac and cheese!
Tips for Making Butternut Mac and Cheese
- Cook the pasta just until al dente (i.e. has some bite to it). It will soften as it sits in the cheese sauce, so you don’t want to overcook it!
- Be careful when frying the sage leaves. They crisp up very quickly and can easily burn, so you need to keep an eye on them.
- Make your life easier by using an oven-safe skillet for this recipe. I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet, which works well on the stovetop or in the oven.
Looking for More Easy Mac and Cheese Recipes? I’ve Got You Covered!
- Meatball Mac and Cheese
- Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese
- Stovetop Creamy Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups peeled butternut squash, (cubed)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, (divided)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, (divided)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 20 fresh sage leaves
- 3 tablespoons purpose flour
- 3½ cups whole or 2% milk
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1¼ cup shredded Asiago cheese, (divided)
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 cups cooked cavatappi or rotini pasta, (al dente)
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, (or Italian breadcrumbs)
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, add squash, olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Place squash in an even layer on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450°F.
- In a 10-inch cast cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add sage leaves and cook until crisp, about 1 minute. Remove sage, chop, and set aside.
- Add flour to skillet, whisking to combine. Cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Then add milk, nutmeg, remaining 1¾ teaspoon salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper, whisking until smooth. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low. Add 1 cup Asiago cheese and Monterey Jack, stirring until melted. Add fried sage, fresh sage, cooked pasta, and roasted squash, stirring gently to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and remaining ¼ cup Asiago cheese.
- Bake until cheese is melted and top is golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.
- Mac and cheese will last in an airtight container for up to three days.
- See my tips and tricks for making this Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash above the recipe box.
- Recipe from Cast Iron Comfort Food Magazine - 2017