Bacon, Butternut Squash, Mac and Cheese {recipe} – What’s Up for the Weekend

Now that Halloween is over and we’re into November, we like to consider this the first weekend of the officially unofficial Holiday 2012 season!

And so we’re starting our Holiday menu planning, everything from Thanksgiving dinner to football parties (which, really, are just an excuse to tackle an enormous tray of nachos before 11 AM) to edible gifts lists to every weekend brunch from now until the end of the year.

One thing we’re including anywhere we can is Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, which we baked this week to encourage you to enter your own Holiday Recipe into the Thermador Ultimate Holiday Recipe Contest to try and win the $6,600 Double Wall Oven! All the details on this post {here}. Looking forward to checking out your recipe by Monday, November 12, 2012!

Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
We added pureed roasted butternut squash to “cut” some of the not-so-healthy cheese, and let me tell you, the Mac and Cheese is super good with a slightly different texture, and subtle sweetness. However, we felt so guilty about trying to make it “better for you” that we added bacon back in.
Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
The result is a magnificent — a word we don’t use often — side dish to add to a Holiday dinner menu, or something to make at the beginning of the week, then heat-n-eat through the hectic weeknights. Honestly, what little leftovers you have taste pretty good just cold straight from the fridge, too.
Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
We roasted the bacon and butternut squash in the oven while we cooked the pasta and cheese sauce on the stovetop. Timing-wise, it’s perfect. We recommend that you cook as big a butternut squash as you can. You won’t use all of it in this recipes, but having simple roasted butternut squash on hand for a few days is nice for adding to other recipes. The other thing? Always cook all your bacon in the oven. It’s super no-fuss, and almost no-mess (to clean up).
Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Bacon Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese {recipe}

inspired by Bacon and Butternut Squash and Cheese.

We cut butternut squash once and roasted two halves, which we find is much easier than peeling then dicing fresh butternut squash. However, peeling and dicing makes the roasting time much shorter, so if you’re inclined, use the roasting method {here}.

If you time everything correctly, you can roast the squash and bacon in the same oven at the same time, while cooking the pasta and cheese sauce on the stovetop. If you do this, just have all your ingredients measured and ready.

serves 6 to 8


10-12 slices thick cut bacon

For the Butternut Squash:

1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
fresh sage leaves
a few whole cloves of garlic

For the Pasta:

16 ounces macaroni or other short “tube” pasta (we used whole wheat penne rigate)

For the Cheese:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all–purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded cheese, any kind (we used half cheddar for the color, half Gruyere because that’s what we had)
salt and pepper

For the Breadcrumb Topping:

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped cooked bacon (about 4 – 5 slices from above)
2 tablespoons melted butter


Roast the Bacon and Squash: Preheat oven to 375°F.

Wash and dry butternut squash. Slice the squash in half, length-wise. Butternut squash is an awkward shape and very hard/tough. Be careful. I find sacrificing a kitchen towel on a cutting board to sort of “anchor” the squash is helpful.

Scoop out the seeds and either discard them or save them to roast into a snack. Rub the cut side of the squash with oil. Place sage leaves and a few whole garlic cloves in the cavity and place on a large baking sheet. Put the squash on a center rack int the oven and roast for about 1 hour, but start checking at 45 minutes. Use a fork to poke the squash for tenderness. It should be super soft/easy. Allow the squash to cool enough for you to hand it, scoop the roasted squash from the skin into bowl. Mash with a fork. (You can also use a food processor to make a fine puree, but no need – chunks are interesting for texture, plus who the hell wants to clean yet another item?)

You can also cook the bacon in the oven during this time on a different rack in the same oven. Use this method {here}. It takes about 20 minutes. Drain the bacon, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Leave the oven on since you will be baking the Mac and Cheese in it.

Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil (over high heat). Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes (but just go by the directions on the package). Drain the pasta.

Make the Cheese Sauce: In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle in the 4 tablespoons of flour, and whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes until the flour “cooks” to a light brown. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the 3 cups of shredded cheese, taste for salt and pepper (you will need about 1 teaspoon salt for now, but remember that there is bacon in the final dish, so you can always add salt after all of the ingredients are combined in the final step before baking).

Stir 2 cups of mashed butternut squash into the cheese sauce.

Assemble the Mac and Cheese: Lightly butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Pour the drained pasta into the casserole dish. Sprinkle about 1 cup of chopped bacon (save d a few slices/tablespoons of chopped bits for the topping). Pour the butternut squash-cheese sauce over, then gently stir everything to combine. (You can also do this in the pot you used to cook the cheese sauce. Or a separate bowl. But again, I wouldn’t dirty another bowl.)

Make the Breadcrumb Topping: Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and crumbled bacon in a small bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and stir to combine. Pour the breadcrumbs over the assembled Mac and Cheese.

Bake the Mac and Cheese in a 400°F oven until the cheese starts to bubble and the Breadcrumb Topping browns, about 20 minutes.

Butternut Squash Fresh Whole

Butternut Squash, cut, bakingsheet for roasting

Butternut Squash, roasted

by Sarah J. Gim on November 2, 2012 · 7 comments

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

A tasty love story November 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

Wow, this looks soooo good! like a truely wonderful comfort dish, yum! I saved the link, and is difinitely gonna make this on a rainy day very soon. Thanks for a great portion of inspiration with one of my all time favorite veggies, pumpkin (and bacon but I don’t think it counts as a veggie ;)


Veronica November 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

That looks divine! But, three cups of cheese! That sounds like a lot! Could I cut out half the cheese and still have it be tasty? I absolutely looove mac and cheese, but do not love the guilt that comes with it…


Sarah J. Gim November 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Veronica: I bet you could definitely cut the cheese down to half, though I havent tried that (might have to, of course). If you do that, my guess is that you’d want to up the milk/cream a little just so it doesn’t get too dry, and perhaps double the amount of pureed squash to account for “sauce.”

If you do it, let me know how it turns out!

Doug November 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

You can cut the fat and calories and still have the cheese. Puree the squash using 1% milk to thin the mixture. Ditch the butter and add 1 1/2c low-fat sharp cheddar and 1c Italian cheese blend and 1/2c part skim Ricotta cheese to the cheese to the puree mixture.


Ashley November 14, 2012 at 4:22 am

Can this recipe be made ahead and frozen to cook in thanksgiving Day?


Debbie November 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Can you make this ahead of time?


Zanis Corner November 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Wonderful presentation..and appetising photoz!!! Have to try this out.


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