4 slices center-cut bacon

 ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

 1 onion, small dice

 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and small dice

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour

 ¾ cup skim milk

 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

 ¾ cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

 1 (13.25-ounce) box whole wheat elbow macaroni, dry

 salt, to taste

 black pepper, to taste



Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and place a cooling rack on top of the foil.

Lay the bacon strips on the rack and bake for 10-15 minutes, until desired crispness.

When the bacon is cool enough to touch, crumble and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the onions and butternut squash, stirring frequently. When the onions begin to soften, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the skillet and cover with a lid. This will steam the squash, helping it to cook faster.

Take the lid off and stir occasionally, adding more water if the squash begins to stick to the skillet. Cook for a total of 25-30 minutes, until the squash is very soft and can be mashed with a wooden spoon.

When the squash is soft enough, mash it in the skillet with a wooden spoon until it makes a coarse puree consistency.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the elbows according to package directions for al dente. Drain the macaroni and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add the butter.

Once melted, add the flour and whisk together to make a roux. Continue to whisk and gradually add in the milk and chicken broth, stirring continuously until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2-4 minutes.

 Add the cheese and stir to combine, until melted and smooth.

 Stir the cheese sauce into the skillet with the squash mixture, and stir to combine the two.

 Pour the sauce over the pasta, and stir in the set-aside bacon crumbles. Season with salt and black pepper.

8 servings | Nutrition Facts based on heaping 11/3 cup