Halloween just came and went, marking the start of fall and winter entertaining. I love nothing more than to have people over and cook food for them. But let’s be honest, cooking for a party can be a little stressful! Getting a menu together that everyone will enjoy that won’t make you crazy is an art all in itself.
Mac and cheese is always a crowd pleaser. After many years of having a dish of mac and cheese at gatherings, I decided to mix it up. First thing I did was to make the mac and cheese in convenient single servings. This is good for portion control (just because I’m at a party doesn’t mean I want to throw my eating habits out of the window) and also for clean up. I put mine in muffin papers so you don’t really need a plate. Depending on how fresh they are out of the oven, you may need a fork, but there’s so much less to clean up from. There are plenty of recipes out there without muffin papers, but for the sanity of cleaning my muffin pan and getting these out of the pan quickly, I went with papers.
The second thing I did was throw some vegetables into the mix, because how could I not? Give me a non-vegetable dish and I’ll figure out a way to sneak a vegetable in there. This is the first time I’ve tried adding butternut squash in to mac and cheese and I like it! I also added bit of heat to balance out the slight sweetness the squash can bring. I got inspired by Sally’s Baking Addiction and her addition of kale in her mac. To go, again, with something quick with minimal prep, I decided to go with spinach.
As always, there are many ways to make this recipe your own. You can swap out the spinach for kale, swiss chard, or even finely chopped broccoli. I used two kinds of Kerrygold grassfed cheese for my cheese, Kerrygold Aged Cheddar and Blarney Castle, a smoother, Gouda-like cheese. You can stick with one cheese or add even more kinds of cheese. If you’re not a breadcrumb person, leave it out.
The good thing about mac and cheese muffins is that they firm up after being out of the oven a little bit, making them a little easier to get out of the paper. So, if you prepare these maybe 20 to 30 minutes before your guests arrive, they’ll be just right for when they get there.
This recipe can easily make a 9×13” baking dish worth of mac and cheese and will make at least 24 muffin tins, which is perfect for any entertaining. If for some odd reason your guests don’t finish all of the cups (which didn’t happen when I made these) they’re also great for lunch or dinner the next day.
No matter which way you make this recipe your own, I wish you easy entertaining this holiday season!
This post was sponsored by Kerrygold. I was compensated with free product. All thoughts and opinions are, and always will be, my own.
- 1 medium squash (about 5-6” long, and 2-3” wide), peeled and cubed
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
- 4 tbsp Kerrygold Unsalted Butter
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound pasta elbows, whole wheat or gluten free
- 3-4 cups (or 5 oz package) or baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup full-flat Greek yogurt
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Kerrygold Aged Cheddar and Blarney Castle cheese, more for sprinkling on top
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs, panko or gluten-free
Preheat oven to 375.
In a stock pot, combine milk, butter, stock, butternut squash and garlic and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once at a boil, reduce the temperature to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
In a another pot, cook your pasta to the directions, then drain and set aside.
When the butternut squash is ready, either in a blender or with a hand blender, blend the squash mixture with the yogurt, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Adjust seasonings to your taste.
In the stock pot, sauté down the spinach with a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat until wilted. If you’ve hand blended your squash mixture, turn the heat on to medium, stir the spinach in and cook down for about 5-8 minutes.
Once spinach is cooked, combine the mixture, pasta, and cheese into the stock pot (if you used the hand blender just add the pasta and cheese in).
Line muffin tins with cupcake papers (I recommend aluminum or parchment papers). With a spoon or ice cream scoop, portion out mac and cheese into the cups.
In a small bowl, combine extra cheese and panko together and top the muffins with the panko cheese mixture to your liking.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top and bubbly.
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Sounds yummy but it seems like you’re missing a step – when do you add the pasta to the squash?
Thank you for pointing that out, Katie! It’s been updated 🙂