This is one of our favorite fall comfort food meals. Butternut Squash Macaroni Skillet with creamy fontina cheese and sage browned butter crumb topping.
It’s a bit healthier than your typical mac and cheese
I’ve been making this Butternut Squash Macaroni Skillet ever since I discovered it on Jessica’s blog three years ago. I made a few slight changes and after making it so many times, I felt that I just had to share it with you.
I love butternut squash. I’ve always hating cutting it, but check out my tutorial on how to do that and you shouldn’t have any issues.
The pancakes are a great choice, especially if you’re a fan of pumpkin pancakes. The Roasted Butternut Squash Bacon Pasta recipe is out of this world delicious and you should definitely make it.
It is more labor intensive than this recipe since you’re basically making mac and cheese, then roasting the squash, and cooking the bacon before bringing all together in one ridiculously tasty dish.
It’s so worth it, but I don’t always have the time for all of the steps.
This recipe is different. It will use three pans, one to cook the pasta, one to cook the squash and one to brown the butter.
But if you have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go, you can multitask your way through this in no time. Because everything ends up in one pan at the end, it sort of feels like a one pan dish to me.
The original recipe calls for 3 cups of pasta, but I hate having a little pasta left in a box, so I scaled the recipe up to use the whole box.
I may have mentioned it before, but leftovers are my jam. When I plan meals for the week, I like to plan at least one, if not two that will yield a second dinner.
My family doesn’t mind eating two of the same dinner in a row (especially if it’s something they love) and it gives me at least one night’s break from having to cook.
I try to keep a wide rotation of meals that are diverse so that we never get tired of any one recipe, which could happen fast if you’re doubling up for leftovers.
Because this makes a large quantity, you’re going to need a large pan.
I use a 12″ oven safe skillet, but you could make this recipe in a large soup pot and then transfer to a 13X9 or lasagna dish for the baking portion, if you don’t have that large of a skillet.
Or, cut the recipe in half if you don’t want to make the full amount.
Let’s talk about what’s in this skillet, specifically, let’s talk about the cheese.
This recipe uses fontina cheese. I remember my mother telling me fontina was one of her favorite cheeses. I think she could have existed on fontina, good bread and olive oil. (And coffee, yeah, she’d probably need some coffee.)
I didn’t pay much attention to her comments; I wasn’t doing a whole lot of cooking or food shopping at the time.
But here I am, years later, now finding it one of my favorite cheeses and I can’t even share the revelation with her :( Fontina is wonderful! It’s mild and nutty and creamy and melts like a dream!
Why it’s better to shred your own cheese
You’re probably not going to find fontina pre-shredded in a bag, you’ll have to buy a wedge and shred it up. I like to shred all of my cheeses fresh.
Actually, I don’t like shredding cheese at all, but freshly shredded cheese is infinitely better than pre-shredded, so I buck up and just do it.
Pre-shredded cheeses have a coating on them to keep them from clumping together and that changes the texture and the flavor for me.
The freshly shredded fontina is mixed into the sauce and also used on top. This recipe has both macaroni and cheese in it but it’s not a super creamy mac and cheesy recipe.
It’s totally different. It doesn’t taste as heavy (because it’s not) and yet has this amazing buttery quality to it. Trust me, we’re talking total comfort food here…total comfort food that’s chock full of butternut squash.
Jessica’s recipe uses olive oil in the sauce, which I omitted along with the browned butter.
I still used the butter though; instead of mixing the browned butter into the sauce, I decided to fry some sage in it and then mix it with the bread crumbs so that the topping would be crispy and buttery and delicious.
About that sage…you’re not going to see it in the photos. Why? Because it disappeared. I bought it at the store along with my fontina and squash.
I brought it home. My husband unpacked the groceries and put them away. When I got to the step where I needed the sage, it was nowhere to be found. Nowhere. And I needed it now.
No time for a quick run to the store. Ugh! I was beside myself. I knew I bought it. My husband swears he saw it. We looked everywhere for it. I wanted it to be in the photos, I wanted it to be in the dish, but I was not going to abandon the shoot.
So, I had no sage to flavor the browned butter. No sage that got crispy on the top with the bread crumbs (angry pout.)
As a last ditch effort to get some into the shoot, I used some from our garden that was beyond its prime as far as flavor, but still pretty.
Sage or no sage, the topping is everything! That’s why I love that this bakes right in the skillet. It gives you plenty of surface area to top so that no one needs to fight to get some of that golden, crispy, browned buttery perfection.
Oh, and a few days ago…which was about two weeks after I shot this post…my husband called out from the garage and said, “Hey, I found the sage!” Where?!?
(In the trunk of his car in a reusable shopping bag.) Hmphh! So I did buy it. He just didn’t unpack it.
I knew it wasn’t me ;)