Connecting to Health

A Health and Wellness Blog

Back to Blog Home

September 12, 2016

Sneaking in Veggies: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

by Amanda MacMillan

September is Fruits & Veggies -- More Matters Month, and it’s no coincidence that now is a great time to find all kinds of fresh and delicious produce at the store or farmers market. Nutrition experts hope you’ll take advantage of that bounty, especially because more than 90 percent of Americans don’t eat the amount of produce recommended by the USDA MyPlate guidelines. For adults, that’s a cup and a half to two cups of fruit each day and two to three cups of vegetables.  

Getting those extra servings of fruit and vegetables throughout your day can help you fight off disease and maintain a healthy weight, experts say. There are many ways to boost your intake, says Eric Sieden, director of nutrition and food services at Northwell Health’s Glen Cove, Plainview and Syosset Hospitals -- whether it’s adding berries to your cereal, keeping a bowl of apples in your kitchen, piling leafy greens onto your sandwiches or roasting veggies for an easy side dish with dinner.

One of Sieden’s favorite ways to incorporate more vegetables into people’s daily lives is to sneak them into familiar recipes -- like this Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese that will be rolling out on the menu at Plainview Hospital this month.

“The squash provides a lot of color and a creamy texture, so you can use low-fat cheese -- and less of it -- and still get the same consistency,” he says. “Our patients want comfort food, and now we’re able to give it to them and get them eating more vegetables at the same time.”

You don’t have to land yourself in the hospital to get a taste of this dish. Try it at home: Each serving of this healthy dish has 230 calories, 4 grams of fat and 305 milligrams of sodium. It also has 5 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein.

Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese

Start to finish: 35 minutes

Servings: 8

2 cups or ½ box elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups cubed butternut squash

1 whole chopped yellow onion

4 cups vegetable broth

¾ cup low-fat milk

2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Gruyere)

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt and ground pepper to taste

¼ cup breadcrumbs


Cook the macaroni, then strain and set to the side. Add the butter and the chopped onion in a pan and sauté until the onions are translucent; set aside as well.

Remove the skin and the seeds from the squash. Cut the flesh into small cubes and add to a boiling pot of vegetable broth. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup broth, and transfer squash to the blender. Add the onions, milk, salt and extra broth and puree until smooth.

Pour the pureed sauce over the macaroni and stir in the shredded cheese and rosemary. Milk can be added to thin out the mixture as needed. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with parsley and breadcrumbs. To achieve crispiness, bake in oven for 5-10 minutes at 350º F (optional).