There are lots of stereotypes we have of kids: They smell delicious as a newborn, their round cheeks are irresistible, they have the softest skin, they have endlessly messy hands, they adorably mispronounce words, and they hate broccoli and loooooove Mac & Cheese.
And can you blame them? A well-made Mac & Cheese is heavenly. I love a homemade version of the gooey, cheesy stovetop variety (I've never been a fan of the baked kind), but even when I'm throwing together a prepackaged version for lunch boxes at 7 am, the smell is usually too good to resist at least a spoonful. (But usually it's more like 3 or 4 spoonfuls.)
And while I love the old classic, I'm also a fan of finding ways to spice up my M&C. Avocado, peas, bacon, pancetta, even lobster have been known to make an appearance in my Mac & Cheese bowl. But those can be very grown up flavors that leave your kids asking why you ruined their favorite meal.
That's one of the reasons I like this version: it adds just the right of adultness to the meal, without being overly in your face about it ("Hi, I'm a green pea very obviously snuggled throughout your bowl of Kraft!"). Its color blends in beautifully with the cheese, it adds a richness that mac & cheese usually lacks (a sweetness too), and it gives an otherwise lackluster nutritional profile a real boost.
Here, we roast the butternut squash simply halved and scoop out the already (basically) pureed center. But you could also buy pre-peeled and diced squash, grab a can of pureed squash (or pumpkin for that matter), or just peel and dice yourself before roasting. Roasted diced squash might give a nice caramel flavor that you wouldn't get from simply roasting the squash halves.
One item of note: this makes a lot "saucier" of a Mac & cheese than my kids were used to. I recommend adding the sauce to the noodles, not the other way around, so you can control how "cheesy" it really is.
If you give it a try, please let me know!