Pumpkin "Mac & Cheese"
Perfect for any fall lunch or dinner...even better as a Thanksgiving side!
Classic macaroni & cheese gets a fall makeover with the addition of both pumpkin-shaped pasta and pumpkin puree. Any short pasta will work well such as penne rigate, cavatappi, fusilli, macaroni, or rigatoni. Homemade pumpkin puree made from a fresh, roasted pumpkin is ideal, but your favorite brand of pumpkin puree will work just as well. Fresh Pumpkin Challah breadcrumbs top the dish for added flavor, texture, and color, but any fresh breadcrumb would be stellar, such as regular challah, brioche, sourdough, soft pretzel, or sandwich bread. No need to butter those breadcrumbs, as the creamy and cheesy sauce will do its magic!
Equipment: small saucepan; large saucepan or stockpot; colander or strainer; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; box grater; wooden spoon; casserole or baking pan
14-16 ounces uncooked pumpkin shaped pasta
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cups whole milk 1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Cook noodles to al dente, but not more, and drain. Rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together.
ILOC tip: cook the pasta to al dente for this dish. When making mac & cheese, the noodles eventually get coated in a creamy cheese sauce and then baked. That process further cooks the pasta. Undercooking the pasta a touch in the prep means that the pasta will not be soggy and overdone in the baking dish. Plus, it saves you time ... a win!
3. Warm the milk in a small saucepan and set aside.
ILOC tip: use whole milk and be sure to warm it before you make the roux. Why? What’s the difference? A smooth and evenly thick sauce versus a gritty and lumpy mess. Adding whole milk, which has the right amount of fat to facilitate the thickening of the sauce with the roux, directly from the fridge to the pan will yield the latter. We generally do not add cold liquids to hot pans in the cooking process. It's all about technique, not torture.
4. Next, make the roux (cooked butter and flour). Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over low heat. Stir in the flour, mustard, and Worcestershire. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, at least one minute.
5. Remove the pan from the heat for a moment and slowly stir or whisk in the warmed milk. Return to medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring constantly to create a smooth, lump-free sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the salt/pepper/nutmeg, and continue to stir the mixture until thickened to the point of coating the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
6. Stir in 2 cups of each cheese until melted and well incorporated, then mix in the pumpkin puree.
7. Gently stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce. Pour into a casserole dish. Sprinkle evenly with the fresh breadcrumbs.
8. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.
Makes 8 servings.