Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese

After years of resistance, I finally started delving into the universe known as Twitter a few weeks ago. While I'm less than thrilled to have found yet another way to waste time online, there are some definite bright spots. One of them is this delicious recipe that popped up on BrokeAss Gourmet's Twitter feed a few days ago.

Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

It's pretty hard to beat plain old homemade mac 'n cheese but the addition of the pumpkin gives it a lovely flavor and the fresh herbs add a little depth.

Sugar pie pumpkin by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

If you've got some extra pumpkin puree or roasted butternut, acorn or delicata squash lying around after yesterday's extravaganza, this is a great way to use it up.

Pumpkin by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

The key to making your own mac 'n cheese is starting the cheese sauce with a roux, a killer combination of browned butter and flour that provides a sumptuous base for the rest of the dish. Trust the French to think this up. Of course, adding a mountain of grated cheese helps, too.

Mountain o cheddar by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

I've adapted Gabi's recipe slightly - adding some fresh herbs (the thyme complements the pumpkin really nicely), increasing the onion a bit and doubling the size (with time at a premium, I consider any recipe that only feeds us for one meal a bit of a waste) but it's basically the same.

Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese about to go into the oven by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

So stop wasting time online! Go use up some of those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese
Serves 6-8


* 1 box (16 oz.) macaroni, penne, shells, elbows or other small pasta
* 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter plus more for the pan
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
* 1 1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (you can use any winter squash - just roast or steam the squash and then mash the flesh)
* 2 cups plus 1/2 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese (you can also use some Gruyère cheese in place of part of the cheddar - it's great in mac 'n cheese)
* 2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
* 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
* 1 Tbsp dried summer savory (if you can find fresh, great, use it!)
* Dash nutmeg
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (you can make your own or if you're lazy like me, get some organic ones from Trader Joe's)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a large baking dish.

2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente.

3. While the pasta is cooking, it's time to make the roux. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften and become translucent. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, just until the butter begins to brown. Add the flour and whisk until you have a thick paste. Continue whisking the butter-onion-flour mixture for 1 minute.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk or half-and-half a little at a time, to form a thick sauce. Continue whisking as you add the pureed pumpkin or squash and two cups of the white cheddar. Add the chopped herbs and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Drain the pasta and return it to its pot. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all of the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat the pasta evenly.

6. Scrape the sauced pasta into the prepared pan and top it with the bread crumbs and the reserved half cup of cheddar cheese.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is very bubbly and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Serve hot.

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