As you can tell from our recent blog posts, we love pumpkin at Countryman. And not just in pies. How good does Cheesy Baked Pumpkin Mac’n’Cheese sound? With its soft noodles covered in creamy, gooey, cheesy sauce topped with crunchy baked-breadcrumbs, Averie Sunshine’s mac’n’cheese would be a lick-the-plate delicious comfort dish on its own. But with the refined addition of silky pumpkin purée and warm spices, it’s at a whole new level.
Cheesy Baked Pumpkin Mac’n’Cheese
Prep: 20 minutes Bake: 35 minutes
Makes one 8-inch square pan, 4 to 6 servings (recipe is easily doubled and baked in a 9 by 13-inch pan)
8 ounces rigatoni or elbow macaroni (half a 1-pound box), dry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¼ cups half-and-half (or cream or milk)
½ cup pumpkin purée
¾ teaspoon dry ground yellow mustard
¾ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces (about 2 cups) extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated; divided
4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese blend, or similar
¼ cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup bread crumbs or panko
1 teaspoon paprika
This is a fast-moving recipe when making the cheese sauce. Make sure you have all ingredients in place and have read the recipe in its entirety before beginning.
Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray, or use a similar-sized oven-safe baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; set aside.
Cook macaroni according to package directions for firm, or al dente pasta. (Don’t overcook. When baked, macaroni will turn to mush if overcooked at this point.) Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Make the cheese sauce. In a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat.
Stir in flour to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Stir in the half-and-half, return pan to the heat, and cook over medium-low until mixture begins to simmer. Cook for 1 minute to thicken, stirring constantly.
Stir in pumpkin, mustard, paprika, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in about 1½ cups cheddar, plus all the Parmesan and Pecorino Romano, and cook over medium-low until cheese is melted, about 1 minute, stirring nearly constantly. Turn off the heat.
Add the pasta and toss to coat.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Transfer mac’n’cheese to prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheddar cheese evenly over the top; set pan aside.
Make the topping. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter (about 45 seconds on high). Add breadcrumbs and lightly stir or toss with a fork until small clumps form.
Evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over the cheese. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon paprika.
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately. Mac’n’cheese can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and reheated gently in the microwave prior to serving.
Tip: For a make-ahead option, this dish can be prepared and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours before baking. This is great if you’re having a party or event, or just want to get a jumpstart on the week’s meals.
Cooking with Pumpkin: Recipes That Go Beyond the Pie was published by The Countryman Press in October 2014, and can be bought for $16.95 on www.countrymanpress.com, or at bookstores and online retailers.
For another Cooking with Pumpkin recipe, be sure to take a look at the recipes for Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Vegan Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin-Spice Buttercream Frosting, also on this blog.