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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Baked macaroni with roasted squash holiday-ready

 •  Fish cake: It's a staple in many Island kitchens

By Elaine Magee

It's just as tasty as when Martha made it, but this slimmed-down version is a lot better for your health and waistline.

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Q. I saw this recipe for macaroni with squash on Martha Stewart's show (recipe courtesy of chef Todd English), and I thought it sounded terrific. I liked the fact that it included squash because I'm trying to get more veggies in my diet. I have high cholesterol, though, and I wondered if there was a way to make this recipe lighter.

A. I love making over Martha's recipes because over the years of doing recipe makeovers, I've found that well-done "regular" recipes tend to translate into well-done "lightened" recipes. I did change the recipe to utilize the microwave, and I broiled the squash lightly to enhance its flavor. The lightened recipe makes 4 servings (instead of 8) so that it would be more convenient for the average-size family.

The original recipe called for 10 tablespoons of butter (plus an additional 2 tablespoons butter) and a tablespoon of olive oil (for 8 servings). I still used butter, because the topping blends browned butter with cookie crumbs and there is no substitute for "browned" butter. But I did use a lot less than called for. And instead of heavy cream and whole milk, I used fat-free half-and-half (or you could use whole milk instead of the heavy cream). I also made the mascarpone cheese optional because the creamy squash sauce is nicely thickened without it. I then dotted the squash and noodle mixture with part-skim ricotta cheese instead of whole-milk ricotta.

When I tested this lightened recipe, I had to make a couple of ingredient switches. I couldn't find amaretto cookies, so I used ginger snaps. I also used frozen butternut squash because I couldn't find a fresh one to save my life.

The original recipe contains about 790 calories, 34 grams fat, 19 grams saturated fat, and 94 milligrams cholesterol per serving.

Makes 4 hefty servings (for 8 servings, just double the ingredients and use a 9-by-13-inch baking dish).


  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (or 1 pound frozen butternut cubes)

  • 1 medium acorn squash (1 1/2-pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Salt to taste (optional)

  • 8 cups cooked whole-grain blend macaroni or penne pasta

  • 1 cup fat-free half-and-half (whole milk can also be used)

  • Freshly ground nutmeg

  • 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

  • 2 tablespoons whipped butter

  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (seasoned bread crumbs will work)

  • 1/4 cup ground ginger-snap cookies

    Place butternut squash halves, cut-side down, on a microwave-safe baking dish or plate, and microwave on high until tender (about 8 minutes). If using frozen butternut squash, place in microwave-safe dish and cook on high until tender (about 4 minutes). Then place acorn squash, cut-side down, on microwave-safe baking dish or plate and microwave on high until tender (about 8 minutes).

    Preheat oven broiler. Coat a 9-by-9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.

    Cut squash flesh into cubes and discard the skins. Add cubes to a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top. Spread squash cubes out onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with canola cooking spray. Season with pepper and salt (if desired), and broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned in some areas. Adjust oven temperature to 350-degrees.

    Add squash cubes to large food processor bowl and pour in fat-free half-and-half, and puree until smooth. Add in the nutmeg and pulse briefly again to blend well. Pour squash mixture into a large bowl and stir in the pasta and parmesan cheese. Pour into prepared baking dish and dot with ricotta.

    Add whipped butter to a small, nonstick saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until nicely brown (it will smell like caramel). Add the bread crumbs and ginger-snap crumbs to the saucepan with browned butter and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cookie mixture evenly over the surface of the pasta mixture. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

    Per serving: 557 calories, 26 g protein, 93 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 4 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 22 mg cholesterol, 13 g fiber, 141 mg sodium (not including salt added to taste). Calories from fat, 19 percent; omega-3 fatty acids, .2 g; Weight Watchers points, 10; omega-6 fatty acids, .8 g

    Elaine Magee is a registered home dietitian. Learn more at www.recipedoctor.com.