The Greatest Not-So-Bad-For-You Mac & Cheese

This is quite possibly the best mac & cheese recipe I’ve come across.  AND it’s not THAT bad for you.  The original recipe is labeled as “light” and it’s from Cooking Light, but of course all cheese is pretty fattening, so I don’t really like to label any type of mac & cheese dish “light” … hence the “not-so-bad-for-you” label.  This recipe combines some cheese with squash and Greek yogurt, so you still get that creamy texture, but not as bad as traditional mac & cheese.  If you’d like to make it even healthier, you can make it with spaghetti squash like I did here. Original recipe can be found here.

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Ingredients:
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 1% milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 spaghetti squash or 1 pound cavatappi pasta

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine butternut 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).
3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt and 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 OR cook spaghetti squash.  (If you’re unfamiliar about how to cook spaghetti squash, please see my past post here).  Add pasta/spaghetti squash to butternut 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 a small pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta or spaghetti squash mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve!

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How To Cook Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash could possibly be the most amazing vegetable on the planet.  I thought it would be beneficial to do a post on cooking spaghetti squash because I do cook a lot of recipes that involve it.  It’s pretty easy to cook and the hardest part is getting the squash open.  So, without further ado, here’s how you cook a spaghetti squash in 5 simple steps.

1. Buy spaghetti squash (that one’s pretty self explanatory).

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2. Cut spaghetti squash open length-wise.  This can be a little tricky and involves some semi-dangerous knife-work, so be careful!

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3. Scoop out the seeds/middle of the squash.

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4. Place spaghetti squash flat side down on a plate and microwave for 10-12 minutes.

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5. Use a fork to scrape the squash part out of the skin and into a bowl.  Voila!  You have your “spaghetti!”

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***Update – You can also cook it in the oven at 375 for 45-1 hour.  I have also read in the past that cutting the sides off (where the stem is) might make it easier to cut length-wise.  I have also read that microwaving the entire squash for a 2-3 minutes might soften it up and make it easier to cut in half.