Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Review
Trader Joe’s is known for their frozen easy to prep meals, but the butternut squash mac and cheese is one of my favorite dishes we’ve tried. It cooks quickly with minimal effort, and is delicious. This mac and cheese would be perfect as a full meal on its own or a side for 2-3 people.
One of the most important decisions in developing a mac and cheese is the noodle. If your pasta is too large, eating your dish will be more trouble than it’s worth. On the other hand, if your pasta is too small, it becomes a soupy mess. The perfect mac and cheese vehicle is something you can easily get on a fork and requires little effort to eat.
Rigatoni, like what you see in the butternut squash mac and cheese, fits in the sweet spot between too large and too small. The mezzi designation at the beginning signifies that it’s slightly smaller than its standard counterpart, but it’s still a great option for mac and cheese.
When you bite into a piece of cheese, pay attention to where the flavor starts to develop. Sometimes it’s immediate but fades away. These are what I call opener cheeses. Other times it takes a few seconds to hit you but it carries through without fading. This is a closer cheese. Well balanced mac and cheese includes at least one opener and closer flavor.
The butternut squash mac and cheese at Trader Joe’s includes Gouda, Cheddar, and Parmesan cheeses. Cheddar is an opener cheese. The flavor opens immediately so it is perfect paired with a variety of closer cheeses.
Gouda is a bit of an anomaly. Younger Gouda is an opener. However, as Gouda is aged it crosses the line between opener and closer cheeses. You should always taste your Gouda before committing to a cheese blend with it, because you can never be positive if it’s an opener or closer.
Parmesan is the quintessential closer cheese. Parmesan flavor takes a few seconds to build, so it’s perfect with any opener cheese.
However, this sauce is more than just the cheeses in it. Butternut squash is the star of this show, and for good reason. It imparts a savory comforting flavor.
Like almost all of their other frozen dishes, you have two different options to prepare this dish. I almost always aim to use the baked option for a better texture experience, but microwaving is an okay choice if you’re tight on time.
In order to microwave this dish, cook it on high for 5–6 minutes. Let it sit for at least a minute before serving. This is the option you take when you’re tight on time and want something delicious quickly.
Alternatively you can bake it at 375* for 12 minutes, stir, and then cook for another 12 minutes. Obviously this option takes more time, but will yield a better texture result.
Add a Fork
Trader Joe’s butternut squash mac and cheese tastes like fall. With a sauce packed with cheese and butternut squash, it’s delicious as a side or perfect for an entree.