A Mac n Cheese w/ a Healthy Twist

Meals ought to be celebratory.  They don’t have to be a big deal.  Even with two people, really taking the time to set the table, putting a vase of flowers or greens from the garden like a handful of rosemary on the table, lemon in the water and even using cloth napkins…(we use cloth napkins and then drape them over the back of our chair for the next meal) can set a mood and intention for some intimate time over afresh simple weekly meal.  The French love to eat outside. So when I can I like to set the table on the back patio and relax into good company and a good meal.
Kids love to be part of the meal process.  Letting them pick out a new vegetable or help in the kitchen is a great way to involve them and interest them in mealtime.  They love making desserts and it gets them excited about the whole meal.  This Mac n Cheese w/ butternut squash, from Cooking Light,  is a favorite w/ kids.  It is a creamy Mac n Cheese with a little bit more nutrition than usual.
3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk 
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Total: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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