11.22.13 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Guys, it’s cold outside. And snowy. And we all know it’s only going to get colder and snowier from here on out. Which is why a big warm bowl of mac and cheese sounds particularly appealing right about now. And not just any mac and cheese. I’m talking about the kind you bake in the oven with buttery breadcrumbs on top until you’ve achieved the perfect balance of creamy cheesiness and crunchy toastiness on top. And no offense to Kraft, but that blue box stuff is just not cutting it. A true mac and cheese craving requires the real thing.
Now, a good batch of homemade mac and cheese is downright heavenly. And also not that difficult to make. Really, it comes down to making a good roux. If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry. A roux is a basic sauce thickener, and is easily made by cooking fat and flour together. In this case, I use equal parts butter and flour. Cook them together in a pan, add some milk, and a delicious cheesy sauce is not far behind.
Of course, one could easily amp up the creaminess of said cheese sauce by adding in some pureed pumpkin. In fact, it almost seems silly not to. Now, not only do you have an extra creamy batch of mac and cheese goodness, but it’s extra tasty too. With a nice fall twist. Because it may be cold, but we’re not ready to concede to winter quite yet.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- 8 oz dried macaroni or cavatappi pasta
- 3 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup pureed pumpkin
- ½ tsp hot sauce such as Tabasco
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir to combine, cooking for about 1 minute.
4. Add the milk, and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 3-4 minutes. Add the grated cheese, and mix until cheese is melted and completely mixed into the sauce.
5. Add pumpkin puree and hot sauce, stirring until fully incorporated. Season sauce to taste with salt.
6. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and mix until pasta is completely coated with sauce. Pour into an 8 x 8 baking dish.
7. Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter and mix with the panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the top of the mac and cheese in the baking dish.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until pasta is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Devour immediately.