Mac and cheese is one of those comfort meals children always love, so I thought of making a homemade version with some sneaky ingredients. I immediately thought to add broccoli because it always pairs well with cheddar. Then I thought why not try some butternut squash, as it has a mild flavour, and it’ll add the bit of sweetness I’d usually add sugar for. Plus the consistency of squash after it’s roasted would easily be disguised within the sauce. So I went ahead and tested this idea for our Sneaky Bacon Mac and Cheese, and guess what, it worked out perfectly!
When I made this recipe I had not only my husband and daughter to taste test it, but also my sister and my father who had stopped in for a visit. When they tasted it they couldn’t believe it included squash because they couldn’t tell at all. The broccoli was obvious by the look and taste, but it made it that much better, because like I mentioned broccoli and cheddar are a great combination. Baked with bacon and gooey cheese, I mean of course it was delicious. I’m really excited to share this recipe, and if your children at home love mac and cheese, give our sneaky version a try. I bet they’ll absolutely love it!
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- 3 cups elbow or cellentani pasta
- 300 g bacon, pan fried or baked until crispy, and chopped
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed with a fork
- ¾ cup broccoli cooked and cut into small pieces
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup sharp cheddar, or smoked cheddar, plus ½ cup set divided, shredded
- ¾ cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- parsley for garnish (optional)
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Do not overcook.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x9 baking dish and set aside.
- In a medium sized pot melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat, then whisk in the flour, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in the milk, now as you continue to whisk add the mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Stir together about 2 minutes. Now add the butternut squash and continue to whisk until starting to thicken, about 1-2 more minutes. Now add ¾ cup of the cheddar, and the Monterey jack cheese and continue to whisk until smooth. Taste and see if you'd like to add more salt.
- Now add the pasta, bacon, and broccoli in with the sauce, mix together. Transfer to the baking dish.
- Evenly top the pasta with the remaining ½ cup cheddar cheese. Now evenly top with the panko crumbs, Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and evenly drizzle on top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are starting to brown. Top with fresh chopped parsley if desired. Enjoy!