Baked Butternut Squash Mac & "Cheese" with Sage Butter Breadcrumb Topping
I've been wanting to make baked butternut squash mac and cheese for some time now, and recently I've been inspired by the dairy free versions that many of my fellow foodies on Instagram have been making.
There are a variety of ways, of course, to make butternut squash mac and cheese dairy free, but the most popular version appears to be made with nutritional yeast and cashews — people seem to love it.
I wanted to see what all the hype was about, so I gave it a whirl in my own recipe, and now I totally understand. It would be an understatement to say that I just taste-tested the butternut squash sauce when making this recipe — I couldn't stop myself from eating it by the spoonful.
For my lactose intolerant friends, this one's especially for you. And for those of you who are devoted cheese eaters like me, I feel confident enough in this recipe to say that you won't miss it for a minute here.
For the sauce:
1 butternut squash, baked
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
3 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp rosemary powder
12 oz. pasta (I used Jovial brown rice pasta)
For the topping:
2 tbs butter, ghee, or olive oil (ghee for lactose intolerance, olive oil for vegan)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, gluten free if needed
2 tbs fresh sage, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut squash, remove seeds, and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a large mixing bowl and hand-toss with two tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Put on a large baking sheet with parchment paper and bake until the squash is tender, about 25-30 minutes.
2. While the butternut squash is baking, cook the pasta in a large pot according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. (Save the large pot that you cooked the pasta in for later, when you'll mix the pasta and butternut squash sauce.)
3. Make the cashew cream by blending 2/3 cup raw cashews with 1 cup water in a large high speed blender until smooth. Add nutritional yeast, and paprika, onion powder, nutmeg, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried parsley and rosemary powder. When the squash is done baking and has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the blender. Blend everything together until blended thoroughly into a creamy, cheese-like sauce.
3. Put the cooked pasta and butternut squash sauce into the large pot you cooked the pasta in and mix until the pasta is fully coated with the sauce. Pour mixture into a large baking dish.
4. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the panko and chopped sage; stir until combined. Top the mac and cheese with the panko and sage mixture and bake at 350, until pasta is heated through and topping is golden, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with a side of fresh arugula tossed in lemon and extra virgin olive oil.