Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

By: Jill Silverman Hough

  • Yield: (about 1 1/2 cups each) Servings
  • Course: Entrée


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, regular or whole wheat
  • 2 (10 to 12 ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar and Jack cheese blend
  • 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) reduced-calorie cream cheese (neufchâtel cheese)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons panko, regular or whole wheat
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the casserole dish


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan or small stockpot, cook the macaroni according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the squash and milk, stirring and breaking up the squash. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the cheddar, cream cheese, salt, mustard, and cayenne, stirring until smooth.
  4. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and additional salt to taste. Transfer the entire mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts, and olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture over the macaroni and cheese. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned.