On the weekends growing up, there was no better lunch for my mom than boxed mac n' cheese. And us kids weren’t complaining! I can even remember how my mom would stand at the stove and scrape those last few little pastas into her mouth with a spoon.

I do love any kind of pasta with a cheese sauce, but I don’t want to serve my daughter something with so much salt, added color and goodness-knows-what-else that typically comes in the boxed variety.

So I decided to add pureed sweet potato as part of a bechamel sauce over pasta for my little lady. The dish turned out so good I decided to have a bowl right alongside my daughter. And in the end, we were both savoring the last spoonfuls of mac n' cheese together.

What’s great about a dish like this is that you can really add and subtract according to your tastes. Instead of pureed sweet potato, you can insert butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, or spinach. It’s an easy, sneaky way to add a little more veggies into your life and also add additional creaminess to the sauce.

I also love the bright orange color that the pureed sweet potato turned the cheese sauce, without any “fake stuff.”

Mac 'n Sweet Potato Cheesy Sauce

Ingredients

macaroni and cheese sauce1/2 lb mini shells, tubetini or elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
reserved pasta cooking water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed, around 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp butter in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. When butter is foamy and almost completely melted, add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk around 2 minutes, to ensure the flour is cooked. Add milk, yogurt and sweet potato puree one at a time, whisking in between to ensure mixture is smooth.

Add 2-3 Tbsp of pasta cooking water and whisk some more.

Add cheese and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth once again.

At this point you can leave the sauce as is, or add a few more Tbsp of the pasta cooking water depending on how thick you prefer your mac 'n cheese.

Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta and add pasta to cheese sauce. Mix together and serve.

Shannon Sarna is the baketress behind Sweeney Sweets: Traditional Challah with a Modern Twist. A lover of all things food, she spends her spare time glued to The Food Network, and baking at her favorite kitchen in Englewood, NJ. In her professional life, she serves as External Relations Coordinator for The Samuel Bronfman Foundation in NYC.