Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese

Butternut Squash paired with cream cheese is creamy goodness…enjoy this wonderful macaroni and cheese variation this Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.   My sister-in-law Gayle makes the best butternut squash soup, so this one’s my way of thanking her for making me love butternut squash with cream cheese — she makes her yummy butternut squash soup every special occasion.

Butternut Squash Mac N Cheese
You know homemade mac n cheese always tastes better than boxed mac n cheese.  But you’d even enjoy this “nutty” mac n cheese that is creamy, rich and satisfying on a snowy day…Gotta make this!

1 – 2 lb Butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 chicken cubes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 box (8 oz) cream cheese, sliced in cubes
1 package (1 lb) small pasta (shells, elbow, ziti)
2 tablespoons panko
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 can vienna sausage, drained and chopped

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (cooked but still firm to the bite), strain and add oil, tossing well to coat.   Set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, place butternut squash, whole milk, chicken cubes, brown sugar and minced garlic.  Add enough water (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) to cover the butternut squash.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 25 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.    Puree with a handheld immersion (stick) blender.   Add salt, mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cream cheese.  Stir until cream cheese is melted.  Adjust seasoning.  Stir in hot cooked pasta.

Pour into lightly-sprayed or buttered 13 x 9 x 2 Pyrex baking dish.  Top with panko bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and chopped vienna sausage.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.  Uncover, and bake an additional 5 minutes.   Serve while hot!

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