Creamy, Light Macaroni and Cheese

- Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Photo: Caitlin Bensel

We aimed high for this makeover of a beloved classic: a mac and cheese with all the ooey, gooey cheesiness of the original yet with far fewer calories and saturated fat. Our brilliant discovery? Butternut squash. Simmered in milk until tender and pureed, the squash creates a luscious sauce and gives the bake a gorgeous orange color. A trio of standout cheeses gives the mac its melty factor. The final tally is impressive: Our makeover shaves 500 calories and 30 grams of sat fat off the original.

Hands-on time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Yields: Serves 8 (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)


calories 390

fat 10.9g

satfat 6.1g

monofat 2.1g

polyfat 0.4g

protein 19.1g

carbohydrate 53.9g

fiber 3.2g

cholesterol 31mg

iron 2.4mg

sodium 589mg

calcium 403mg


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

How to Make It

Preheat oven to 375°.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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