A Warming Winter Starchy Meal with a Nutritional Bonus!

Right around this time of winter, I crave a warming, hearty, starchy, carb-heavy meals. My clients and running pals are starving for the same thing, but is it possible to find a dish that fits that bill without feeling bloated, weighed down and without abandoning our healthful eating goals? 

Enter the excellent Whole Foods Market app and their recipe for Butternut Squash and Macaroni Casserole.


With just a few tiny tweaks, this is one of my favorite warming winter dishes. It looks like a golden macaroni and cheese, but creamy butternut squash and rich coconut milk substitute for the heavy cheddar cheese, butter and milk in traditional mac & cheese. Trust me, you won't miss them!

Instead of the saturated fat and grease found in a standard mac & cheese, the squash brings a delicious dose of vitamin A (boosting our immune systems during flu season), the walnuts are a crunchy anti-inflammatory touch and a great brain food. Plus the dish is full of filling fiber thanks to the the vegetables and the whole wheat pasta.

The original recipe is here, and my take on the recipe is below. Let me know if you give this a try!

Butternut Squash and Pasta Casserole

8 servings

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk 
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried sage
3/4 lb dried whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided
1 cup frozen peas
OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast flakes (note this is not brewer's yeast!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside.

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add onions and about 2 Tbs of water and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. If onions begin to stick during cooking, add another Tbs of water.

2. Add squash, coconut milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in sage and simmer 1 minute more. (This part can be made a day ahead)

     2.5 If you want to mash or puree up to about half of the squash, you can do that at this time

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package MINUS about 1-2 minutes. The pasta will cook additionally in the oven, so it should be firm when you take it off the heat

4. Drain pasta and mix it with the squash mixture.

5. Put 2 Tbs of the walnuts aside.

6. Add the peas and most of the walnuts to the pasta and mix well. Add salt and pepper

7. Transfer the pasta & squash to prepared dish and top with remaining 2 Tbs walnuts, and nutritional yeast if you're using it.

8. Bake until just golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.