I am 1000% on the pumpkin bandwagon. Judge me if you want, but I’m jumping in with both feet. I LOVE fall for the cozy weather, it’s proximity to Christmas, and all the pumpkin flavored everything it brings with it. Since early September, I have been having steamed pumpkin almond milk in my coffee every morning, and I still can’t get enough. (My supply is running alarmingly low. I’m trying to find a store that still sells it, so I can stock up for the next 6 months..) If you can relate, you will really appreciate this Rachel Ray inspired recipe. If you can’t relate, you will still appreciate this recipe as a slightly sweet twist on a traditional rich, creamy, and most importantly cheesy baked mac & cheese.
This recipe strikes a nice balance with a subtle pumpkin flavor & a kid + adult friendly hint of natural sweetness. My family absolutely LOVES it. Its a perfect side to a big family dinner (Thanksgiving perhaps?!) or if your more my speed–a main course. Maybe with a veg on the side. Although, pumpkin is a vegetable right? Or a fruit??..either way. Guys, this recipe is a real indulgence, and so wonderfully fall-ish, cozy, & delicious! It is the epitome of comfort food, and can really be enjoyed anytime during the year. If you’re not a pumpkin fan, you can even make it without the pumpkin. (See note 1 at the end of the recipe.)
The key to a good mac & cheese is in the roux. (Roux is a combination of flour and butter, and it sets up the nice, thick, creamy texture of the mac & cheese.) For this roux we will melt the butter in the pan over low heat just until the foam starts to subside, and then slowly add our flour. Fairly constant mixing is needed to prevent the butter/flour mixture from burning in the pan. We’ll need to cook the mixture over low heat until the roux changes from a light yellow color to more of a golden brown color and loses it’s floury taste (you’ll be able to taste when the roux starts swinging more towards the nutty, buttery side.) Don’t fret, that’s the hardest part of this tasty recipe, and it’s really very simple. It’s all downhill from the roux.
I LOVE a baked mac & cheese, but if you don’t share the same sentiment, you can stop at step 13 and enjoy as is! This recipe is also very adaptable if you want to add something in or leave an ingredient out, try a different type of cheese–feel free. Take liberties with this cheesy dish.
If you make this recipe, drop me a comment and let me know what you think! Happy cooking, y’all.
- 1 pound pasta shells or macaroni
- 4 TBS unsalted butter
- 4 TBS all purpose flour
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream (sub 1 cup of milk if desired)
- 1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
- 1 cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a large baking dish.
- Bring a medium/large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook al dente according to directions. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and set aside.
- Add butter to a large pot over low heat.
- Allow butter to melt until foam subsides.
- Add flour to butter 1 TBS at a time--combining thoroughly each time flour is added.
- Continue to cook roux (flour/butter mixture) over low heat until the mixture changes from a light yellow shade to a nutty, light brown color. (Roux will start off tasting like raw flour, and when properly cooked will taste nutty and buttery.)
- Add milk and cream to roux 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until thoroughly combined.
- Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil. Continue to stir mixture to prevent burning or sticking to bottom of pot.
- Allow to bubble for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and add pumpkin puree, salt, pepper, pumpkin pie seasoning/nutmeg, garlic powder, and cayenne.
- You now have a basic béchamel sauce (or pumpkin béchamel sauce?!). Continue to stir mixture frequently over low heat for 6 minutes.
- Mixture should be thick and creamy. Add cheddar cheese and 1 cup of parmesan cheese. Setting aside remaining 1/2 cup. Stir cheese into béchamel sauce until well combined.
- Shut off heat and add macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until combined.
- Add macaroni & cheese to buttered baking dish.
- Sprinkle bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan over mac & cheese.
- Bake mac & cheese for 15-20 minutes until bread crumbs and parmesan are toasted. (If desired, you can broil the mac & cheese on high for the last few minutes to get the top extra crispy. Keep a close eye, as it can burn quickly if left too long.)
- Allow mac & cheese to cool for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!
Note 1: If you would like to make this recipe without pumpkin, use 2 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! See ya next Tuesday.
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