Are you a sucker for a good mac and cheese? Here’s my healthy (yet still delicious) version! Full of nutrition and flavor, you will crave this butternut squash mac and cheese topped with crispy prosciutto as soon as you smell it simmering on the stove. This is the ultimate comfort food!
What is butternut squash mac and cheese?
This is a homemade mac and cheese recipe you can easily make on the stove. Classic elbow macaroni noodles are combined with roasted butternut squash and topped with crispy prosciutto.
It’s all smothered in a velvety cheesy sauce for the most incredible dish of food you have ever made.
This easy butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is the perfect way to dress up an old classic!
Why this easy butternut squash mac and cheese recipe works
- Large macaroni noodles are the definition of comfort food.
- The thick cheese sauce is so rich and filling that you won’t need to serve it with anything else.
- The crispy prosciutto adds a salty layer to the sweet mac and cheese.
- Butternut squash is a high-fiber and nutritious squash.
How to buy the best butternut squash
You should always buy fresh butternut squash for the ultimate flavor. Butternut squash is available year-round but is best in season from early fall into winter.
For this recipe, we only need 1 pound of diced squash, so you can either buy already cut squash or buy a small one and prep.
Butternut squash tip:
When buying squash, you want one that feels heavy, and the smaller the round bulb at the bottom, the fewer seeds you have to deal with.
Butternut squash mac and cheese ingredients
In addition to the butternut squash, I used a bunch of spices to make the homemade cheese sauce for the pasta. Here’s what you’ll need from the store:
- Butternut squash
- Olive oil
- Grated gruyere cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh sage
- Fresh thyme leaves
- Vegetable stock
- Half and half
- Macaroni pasta
- Cayenne pepper (can omit if you do not want heat)
- Ground nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
How to prepare the squash
When cutting butternut squash, you want to make sure you use a very sharp, large knife. Dull knives are dangerous! If the squash is slippery, you can secure it by using a dish towel to grip it better.
To prep the butternut squash:
- Cut squash in half, in between the bulb and the stem.
- Using a spoon, remove the pulp and seeds.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel all the skin from the squash (the dish towel comes in handy here, too, if it’s slipping around).
- Then, slice and cut into 1-inch cubes.
How to roast butternut squash
To quickly roast butternut squash:
- Toss the cubed squash in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.
- Place on baking pan and roast at 425°F for 25 minutes.
- Flip them over halfway through.
- You want the squash to be easily pierced with a fork, and the caramelization adds an extra depth of flavor.
The best cheese for homemade mac and cheese
One big tip when making mac and cheese is to grate your own cheese from a block. Pre-shredded cheese has a caking agent to keep it from clumping, which also doesn’t allow it to melt into the silky texture needed.
For this recipe, I use gruyere, which is a great melting cheese!
How to make crisp prosciutto
Making crispy prosciutto is one of my favorite things to do. It makes the perfect salty garnish and bite to a dish. I love topping all sorts of pasta dishes with crispy prosciutto – like pesto!
To make it crispy:
- Place on a baking pan and cook in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes, until it shrinks and crisps up.
- It will easily crack by hand, or you can use a knife to chop.
How to make butternut squash cheese sauce
This is my “healthy twist” on a classic mac and cheese sauce!
- Melt butter in the skillet until it’s frothy and bubbling.
- Add in shallots and sauté for a few minutes until translucent.
- Add in garlic and fresh chopped thyme, and sage.
- Add in your roasted squash and vegetable stock.
- Add in half and half. If you do not have half and half, you can substitute whole milk.
- Use an immersion blender to purée the squash or ladle it into a heat-safe blender.
- Add in the gruyere and slowly stir until all the cheese is melted.
- Allow it to come to a gentle boil. The sauce should be thick and will remain separated if you run your finger down a spoon.
If your immersion blender openings are showing when inserted in the pan, it’s too shallow and will spray everywhere. So, you can also ladle it into a pyrex glass or bowl and immersion blend in that.
How to add pasta water to cheese sauce
Pasta water is liquid gold!
Get in the habit of always saving pasta water before draining your pasta. The starchy salty pasta water, when added to your homemade pasta sauce, will help give it that silky, luxurious texture.
Pasta water tip:
I use a pyrex glass to scoop a glass out to save on the side, or you can scoop the pasta out directly into the sauce, and you’ll have the whole pot of water left over.
How to make butternut squash mac and cheese
Here’s how to combine all these ingredients to make the ultimate butternut squash mac and cheese!
Stir the macaroni into the cheese sauce. It will begin to thicken up as you stir to coat the pasta.
As it thickens up, this is where your liquid gold pasta water enters the picture. Add a few splashes at a time while stirring until the perfect consistency is achieved.
How to add prosciutto to mac and cheese
When ready to serve, sprinkle the crispy prosciutto over the top of the butternut squash macaroni and cheese. The crispy prosciutto helps offset the sweetness of the butternut squash by adding a salty bite to the dish.
This butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is the perfect comfort food and a great way to sneak a vegetable in for your kids too!
This is the perfect thing to make for potlucks or when you want to take food to someone that is homebound. The crispy prosciutto and sweet roasted butternut squash elevate this recipe to iconic status.
Looking for other pasta comfort food recipes?
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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 small butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes (1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 ounces grated gruyere cheese about 2 cups (see note #1)
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 3 tablespoons shallot minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup half and half
- 12 ounces macaroni pasta
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Small pinch cayenne pepper can omit if you do not want heat
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Peel and cut the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes (see in post for how-to cut squash).
- Toss cubed squash in 1 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Arrange on a greased baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Prepare 12oz macaroni according to package al dente instructions. *Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.*
- In a high walled skillet over medium heat, add 2 tbsp butter. Once bubbling, add in the shallot and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in the sage, thyme, and garlic and sauté for an additional minute until fragrant. Add in the roasted butternut squash, cup of vegetable broth and cup of half and half. Allow to come to gentle boil.
- Lower oven temp to 400 F. On same pan you roasted the squash, place slices of prosciutto side by side. Bake for 10 minutes, until crispy, set aside.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the pasta sauce until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can ladle into a heat-safe blender. (see note #4)
- Lower heat to medium/low. Add in the shredded gruyere cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Add in the nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Add in the macaroni and begin to stir. As you stir the sauce will thicken. Begin adding splashes of reserved pasta water until sauce thins and desired consistency is achieved.
- Using your hands or a knife, break up the crispy prosciutto into small chunks. To serve, spoon into bowls and garnish with crispy prosciutto. Enjoy!
- I recommend grating your own cheese from the block. Pre-shredded cheese has a caking agent to keep it from clumping, which affects the melting into the silky texture needed.
- You can also purchase pre-cut and peeled butternut squash to use
- If you do not have half and half, you can substitute whole milk.
- If the immersion blender openings are exposed due to the liquid not being high enough, it will splash everywhere. You can transfer to heat safe glass/bowl and blend until smooth.