Is there anything better on a chilly autumn night than a bowl of warm, cheesy pasta? Comfort to the max. And I love a classic, comforting dish. But what I love even more is if that meal can be made just a little bit better. Still all the comfort but add in a good dose of plant power and now you’ve really got me hooked. And that is exactly what this butternut mac and cheese is all about.
I am really excited to work with Modern Table on this recipe. If you aren’t familiar, they make delicious pastas (and pasta meals) made from lentils, rice, and pea protein. Needless to say, I am a BIG fan because I love a good source of plant-based protein. Not only are their pastas gluten free and non-GMO, they are also a complete protein. If you need a refresher on what that means and why it’s awesome, go check out our post on great sources of plant-based protein from our Ask a Dietitian series. You can use their pastas in all sorts of dishes, but here I’m sharing a recipe for mac and cheese that includes a good serving of vegetables too. Hello, butternut squash season!
This meal can be made in a crock pot (often called a slow cooker too, but here in southern Missouri I’ve always heard it called a crock pot). You cook the vegetables and a few other ingredients for hours until soft and creamy, and then you’re just minutes away from dinner by adding the cooked pasta and cheese. I think you’re gonna like this one friends, so get excited for some creamy pasta with me!
Creamy Crock Pot Butternut Mac & Cheese, makes 4 small servings
1 butternut squash (approx. 15 oz once peeled and insides removed)
1 small yellow onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of sage or 2 dry bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
8 oz. Lentil Elbows from Modern Table
4 oz. shredded cheddar or a mix of cheese
2 oz. cream cheese
First, peel the butternut squash and remove the soft insides containing the seeds. Cube the remaining butternut meat. Remove the papery outside of the onion and give that a rough chop.
In a crock pot combine the squash, onion, garlic cloves, sage (or bay leaves), salt, pepper, cayenne, and vegetable stock. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6-8. Every crock pot is a little bit different, so it’s best to keep an eye on this the first time you make it. The goal is simply to cook the vegetables until they are so soft then can easily be mashed with a fork. But you don’t want to cook so long that all the liquid is gone and the vegetables begin to dry out.
Remove the sage or bay leaves and use an immersion blender or regular blender and puree the mixture. It should be a like a thick soup at this point.
Cook the noodles according to the package directions (7-8 minutes in boiling water). Drain and add those along with the cheese and cream cheese to the pot. Give that a few stirs and allow the cream cheese to melt and everything to get well coated.
Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if you prefer. You can divide this into four small servings, it’s great next to a salad or vegetable side dish (might I recommend this brussels sprout salad).
Some of you who have never tried lentil noodles might be wondering about the taste/texture. To me, the texture is very similar to whole wheat noodles, and they taste like, well, lentils. Not much of a surprise there, I guess.
And it warms up great the next day too, if you have leftovers. I ate some of these leftovers for lunch one day and it was delicious! Enjoy. xo. Emma