The best baked macaroni and cheese recipe! This kid favorite includes a creamy veggie.. pumpkin!
Healthier ingredients, still lots of cheese!
As we developed this mac and cheese we saw lots of delicious recipes that included everything from mayonnaise to butter to cream cheese – no doubt delicious, but also not the healthiest. While we kept plenty of cheese in this recipe, we substituted Greek yogurt for lots of these fats. The yogurt not only cuts down on fat but also increases protein – and adds a little tang.
Pumpkin was added in order to add some creaminess and vitamins! Pumpkin is used in place of fats in some baking, so why not also use it in macaroni and cheese!? Plus, the color is totally perfect and sneaks the veggie in nicely.
We considered adding additional veggies, such as spinach, shredded carrots, mushrooms, etc. In the end, we decided to keep a basic recipe because sometimes you just need straight up macaroni and cheese! Feel free to add the vegetables that work best for your family, just make sure to wilt the spinach or sauté the mushrooms a little first.
Preparing the macaroni and cheese
Even though this mac n’ cheese is meant to be baked, we found that cooking noodles first was helpful. Make sure to boil them until juuuust al dente – firm enough that they can handle some time in the oven afterward. Drain well but do NOT rinse. We need the noodles to keep all that starch to help thicken the final cheesy mixture.
While the noodles are cooking, prepare a casserole dish by spraying the pot or lining, if using. Cheese tends to stick, so you’ll want it well-greased. Then add the pumpkin, milk, and Greek yogurt.
In a medium bowl, combine all the spices and flour, then toss in the cheddar and parmesan cheese so that the spice-flour mixture coats it well. Mixing this way helps keep the flour from clumping and gets all the flavor well-distributed. Pour the cheese-spice mixture into the casserole dish and mix everything well. Add in the noodles and stir again.
Bake the mac and cheese for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything has melted together. Make sure not to leave the noodles cooking or even on ‘warm’ too long – after a while they tend to get too mushy.
The cheesy mixture might look a little separated while very hot, but once it cools just a bit it comes together nicely. Serve with some fresh veggies and fruit for a kid-friendly dinner. We loved this tasty, cheesy, healthier take on macaroni and cheese!
For more macaroni and cheese recipe ideas:
- Baked Butternut Squash macaroni and cheese recipe
- Quick Macaroni and cheese
- Baked mac and cheese cups
- Hidden Veggie mac and cheese
- Mac and cheese soup (with hidden veggies)