Bacon butternut squash mac and cheese casserole with fried sage and a crispy pretzel breadcrumb topping.
It's Fall, ya'll! And what better way to officially ring it in than with a piping hot dish of cheesy, baked macaroni and cheese.
What you need
- Dry elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta
- Sharp cheddar cheese
- Cream cheese
- Chicken stock
- Sage leaves
- Pretzel twists
First, bake the squash. Cut in half length wise and scoop out the seeds.
Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
Bake in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 45-60 minutes or until fork tender.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop out the soft flesh and set aside.
Dice bacon into 1 inch pieces, and fry in a skillet until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Boil the pasta in salted water until two minutes under al dente. The pasta will finish cooking in the casserole.
Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water in the strainer until cold.
Butternut squash cheese sauce
Medium to sharp cheddar cheese is perfect for this recipe, but you can also try a blend of other cheeses.
Be sure to shred the cheese by hand off the block, and not use pre-shredded cheese because it won't melt smoothly.
In the same pot that you boiled the pasta in, sauté the sage leaves in butter until fried and crispy, remove with tongs and set aside.
Add the flour to the remaining butter and whisk to create a thickened paste, called a roux.
Add the stock and simmer until it becomes thickened and the flour taste is no longer detectable, about 5 minutes.
Lower the heat, then add the milk.
Add the baked butternut squash to the milk and stock mixture.
Use an immersion blender (or add contents to a regular blender) and blend on medium speed until smooth.
Add the shredded cheese and cream cheese and whisk until smooth.
Pretzel breadcrumb topping
Put the pretzels in a plastic bag.
Using a rolling pin, crush the pretzels and roll to pulverize them until they resemble crumbs.
Assemble the mac and cheese casserole
Add the cooked pasta and bacon to butternut squash cheese sauce.
Pour it into a 13x9 inch (or similar sized) casserole dish.
Top with the fried sage leaves, followed by the pretzel breadcrumbs.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven, until edges brown and the cheese is hot and bubbly.
Remove from oven, and serve hot!
If you tried this recipe, let others know in the comments, or leave a rating in the recipe card using the stars 1-5.
Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 squash about 1 ½ pounds in weight
- 1 lb elbow macaroni about 4 cups dry
- ½ lb bacon sliced into one inch strips
- 3 tbsp butter plus more for squash
- 5-10 sage leaves
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cup milk
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese or other melting cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup pretzels crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut squash in half, longways and scoop out seeds.
- Drizzle squash halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until fork tender. Set aside to cooled enough to handle.
- Boil pasta in salted water until two minutes short of al dente, according to pasta package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Fry bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Crush pretzels in a plastic zip lock bag using a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs.
- In the same pot that the pasta was boiled in fry the sage leaves in butter on medium high heat until fried and crispy, remove the leaves.
- Add flour to the butter that the sage was fried in and whisk until thick paste, or roux, has formed.
- Pour in chicken stock, whisk, and simmer until thickened and flour taste is no longer present, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in the milk.
- Scoop the soft, cooked flesh out of the roasted squash and add to the pot of stock mixture.
- Use an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor and blend/pulse on medium speed until smooth.
- Fold in the shredded cheese and cream cheese and stir on low heat until smooth.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Fold in the cooked macaroni pasta and bacon.
- Pour into a 13x9 inch, or similarly sized casserole dish.
- Top with fried sage and crushed pretzel breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
- It's advised to use dry pasta, and only cook it a couple of minutes below al dente.
- If you use a combination of gruyere with the cheddar, or other smooth melting cheese, you may not need to use all of the cream cheese, or possibly omit it all together.
- Cook the bacon as crispy as possible without burning it, so that it doesn't become soggy in the butternut squash mac and cheese casserole.