2 1/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
14 oz small whole-wheat shell pasta, or similar shape
2 tbsp organic unsalted butter
1/4 cup white whole-wheat flour (TRY: King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
3 cups whole milk
4 oz grated Gruyère cheese (1 packed cup)
4 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (1 packed cup)
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 packed cup)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, optional
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray. Add squash, oil, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread in a single layer. Roast until squash is golden brown and tender, tossing once or twice with a spatula, about 25 minutes.
In a large saucepan, cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Before draining, ladle about 1 cup of pasta cooking water into a heat-proof measuring cup or small bowl and set aside.
Wipe out pan used to cook pasta. To pan on medium, melt butter. Add flour and stir with a spoon until moistened, about 1 minute. Add milk in a slow, steady stream as you stir with a whisk. Increase heat to medium-high and continue whisking until no lumps of flour remain. Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to prevent milk from scorching. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and stir in Gruyère and cheddar. Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp salt, pasta and squash, until combined. Stir in reserved pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, until cheese sauce is thick but still pourable, or to desired consistency. Remove from heat and divide among plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan and thyme (if using).
Four different varieties of cheese – mozzarella, Swiss, Monterey Jack and Parmesan – combine to create the most indulgent-tasting mac & cheese balls you’ve ever tried. But don’t worry, they still have the goodness of whole-grain pasta, plus we’ve hidden butternut squash and cauliflower in the sauce for a nutrient punch. These are incredible on their own, but we suggest dipping them in the marinara sauce from our Chicken Fingers with Marinara Sauce, or our Serrano Hot Sauce.
You can make both the potatoes and onions the day before so that your pre-party preparation is extra fast and easy. After assembling the dish, either bake it at home and serve it within an hour or so (it's equally delicious at room temperature), or take it to the host's place and bake it there.