I haven’t totally thrown healthy out the window, okay? I know there have been pies and dips and talk of cinnamon rolls. This cold weather + holiday inklings in my heart bring out the comfort food desires.
Comfort food sometimes get a bad rap. But ya know what? Comfort food is always healthy in at least one way — it’s always healthy for the soul. Sitting cozy by the fire, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, possibly with a dog or cat curled up next to you, and maybe a significant other, reading a book, sharing a big bowl of Butternut Squash Crabmeat Mac & Cheese… Just thinking about it is good for my soul.
Although, that’s just my dream.
Here’s my reality: Sitting on the couch, drowning in sweatpants, wrapped in multiple blankets to stay warm, with my dog who is sniffing uncontrollably at my food and my cat who is meowing to get outside and my roommate who is watching HGTV while I’m on my computer. But the ambiance doesn’t really matter all that much because either way, I’m eating Butternut Squash Crabmeat Mac & Cheese and my soul is healthier than it’s ever been.
And this mac & cheese is without guilt. I mean, look at the name, there’s a vegetable in there. So if you eat a whole plate, you’re basically eating a plate of vegetables. (No, not really. I cannot steer you down the wrong path. There’s still a decent amount of cheese and pasta on your plate.)
What I love about butternut squash mac & cheese: I LOVE that I can eat more than three bites. Have you ever ordered a fancy mac & cheese somewhere and you get three bites in and then you’re renaming the dish OMG-So-Rich-Can’t-Eat-Anymore-Or-My-Heart-Will-Explode Mac & Cheese? Have you?
That kind of mac & cheese is good, but butternut squash mac & cheese is not like that. You can eat three bites and stop, but you will likely eat 20 bites at least because it’s got that good gruyere (and thyme) (and garlic) (and CRAB) flavahhh. And the mascarpone… Just. Mascarpone. So good. Only two tablespoons in the whole dish and I swear you can taste and feeeel that smooth cream in every single luxurious bite. So this dish will not stop your heart, but will leave your heart beating, fluttering even, with healthy comfort.
Butternut Squash Crabmeat Mac & Cheese
- 1 20- ounce package peeled cubed butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 cups skim or 1% milk heated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 5 ounces gruyere grated
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 12 ounces lump crabmeat
- 1 pound pasta
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9x13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. Steam squash until very soft, about 20 minutes, then puree in a food processor and set aside.
At the same time, cook pasta according to package directions until very al dente. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain and set aside.
For the sauce: Melt butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir constantly until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Slowly add warm milk, whisking continuously until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, 5-7 minutes. Add squash puree, salt, pepper, gruyere, mascarpone, and thyme and stir until smooth.
For the topping: In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan.
Mix cooked pasta with the butternut squash cheese sauce and pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.