Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts

For a healthier take on mac and cheese give Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts a try.  It’s a great way to indulge in winter comfort food while sticking to your new years resolutions. 
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts | The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

The holidays are officially over and what a nice break it was to sit at home and essentially do nothing.  I had a week and half off from work, no major plans besides a small family gathering and friends over for New Years Eve (before we saw Billy Joel yo!) and a nap every.single.day.  It was the life and I’m not going to lie, heading back to work today was a little tough, especially with a blizzard happening right out my window as I type.  Tomorrow will be more difficult but at least it’s Friday and I can give myself two more days to pump myself up into the normal swing of things. 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts | The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

Before the vacation of lazy took over (my official name for it this year), I managed to get myself and Braden out of the house for a fun afternoon at a new culinary program in lower Manhattan.   I had met Carey Nava, the Culinary Director of Asphalt Green Battery Park Culinary Arts Program by Great Performances at the New York City Food and Wine Festival.  Carey was generous enough to offer the opportunity for me to take a class of my choosing along with a guest.  I though this was the perfect opportunity to get my husband with barely basic cooking skills to learn a little something.  

See now, I could sit and teach him how to cook but we have the tendency to get a little snippy at each other when one other might know something better than the other.  I will forever call it “snare drumgate”.  If you want to know more about that, ask in the comments. 😉 Asphalt Green Battery Park Kitchens I digress.  So we choose the healthy holiday cooking class and for me it was a fun and fantastic afternoon out to cook some dishes that were new to me.  For a beginner or even intermediate cook this class was perfect.  Our class size was smaller than usual do to the close proximity to Christmas but under normal circumstances classes are no larger than 14 people.  

We divided into groups of 2, each with recipes to tackle.  I let Braden take the lead on a lot and it was a pleasure to have Carey come over and teach him the correct way to chop.  By the end of the class, Braden said he chopping felt very “zen”.  Hey, he can prepare my mis en place anytime!  Despite the title of the class, the dishes are really versatile year round. Herb pork roast with an amazing port wine and fig reduction, cauliflower mash, a raw brussels sprouts salad (already made that at home), goat cheese stuffed dates and perhaps my new favorite butternut squash mac and cheese. 

Dishes from Healthy Holiday Meals Cooking Class Just one week after class I had to remake that mac and cheese. I already had some butternut squash at home, so clearly it was meant to be.  Carey’s version called for less cheese than mine and no walnut topping but I needed to do something to little red kitchenize it.  🙂 

So next time you are looking for something to do in NYC I highly recommend one of the classes.  The facility is brand new and Carey is a knowledgable and personable instructor. 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts

To speed things up you can roast your butternut squash in advance or use a frozen puree.

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  • 1 medium butternut squash, roasted
  • 3/4lb penne pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 8oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut your squash in half length-wise drizzle it with oil and roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender.
  2. Scoop out the flesh, leaving the seeds behind and place in your food processor or blender with 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Blend until smooth.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  4. In a medium stock pot over medium heat melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft about 2 minutes.
  5. Mix in the flour, salt, pepper and allspice and stir together until it forms a paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes to form the roux.
  6. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure the roux combines with the milk and there are no lumps. Continue to whisk until the milk has thickened about 4-5 minutes.
  7. Pour in the remaining vegetable stock and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat and stir in the cheese in 1/4 cup increments until completely melted. Mix in the butternut squash puree and fresh thyme.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  10. Pour the cooked pasta into the mixture and stir to evenly coat. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  11. In a small saute pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brown sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Mix in the cayenne pepper and salt. Stir in the walnuts and stir for 1-2 minutes until the walnuts are completely covered and start to toast slightly. Let sit for 1 minute off the heat.
  12. Serve the mac and cheese hot with the walnuts sprinkled on top.
Recipe Type: Vegetarian, Side

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts | The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

Disclaimer: I was compensated with one class for myself and a companion to Asphalt Green at Battery Park Culinary Arts Program. All opinions are my own.
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9 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Candied Walnuts

    1. Susan Palmer

      Heather – actually I used whole wheat pasta, I just didn’t note it since most people use white pasta (and now I’m realizing I even wrote down a different style than I used in the photos – why blogging at 1am isn’t a good idea)!. So yes whole wheat pasta will be great. As for the flour, I’ve never used it in a roux. Perhaps whole wheat white? You definitely want a flour that will thicken the sauce. Let me know how it turns out. 🙂

  1. Jennie @themessybakerblog

    I took a week off and it was glorious. Lazy is the way to go. Next week is a full work week, and I’m not looking forward to it. There is mucho cheesiness (not a word but totally using it) happening in that mac. Your photos are gorgeous. Squirrel and I took a cooking class in Charleston and had a blast. Pinning.

  2. Anita at Hungry Couple

    That class and the food sounds great and I love the photo of the two of you in your aprons. 🙂 I’ve actually been making butternut squash mac and cheese for the past few years and we love it. My recipe is actually different than yours but I could go for a mutual tasting. 🙂

  3. Chris

    Wow, I adore mac and cheese and love the idea of butternut squash and warm spicy allspice. What a perfect dish as we start to feel the first nips of fall weather.

    Thanks for sharing!


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