Click around internet food blogs and you’ll discover it’s pumpkin season. Everything is pumpkin related. My favorite way to enjoy pumpkin is in a savory version, like this Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese. And boy did I enjoy this one. Could not stop eating it!!!
I LOVE mac ‘n cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food in my book. Whenever I’m at a restaurant and there’s a “gourmet” version of mac ‘n cheese on the menu you can pretty much bet I’ll order it. Many times I’m disappointed though. I think I’m just so use to my go-to mac and cheese recipe that I’ve made for years. I’m embarrassed to say it has some Velveeta cheese in it. It’s so easy to make, always tastes great and doesn’t require making a roux. (Used it in my famous Bacon Jalapeño Mac & Cheese). This time around I thought I’d try making a fancier version with a roux, like real food bloggers do, and came up with this delicious pumpkin macaroni and cheese. Perfect for fall. Because, you know, it’s that time of year and everything is suppose to have pumpkin in it! It was really good. I seriously couldn’t stop going back for more bites!
I decided since I’m making a fancier mac ‘n cheese that I’d use penne pasta instead of elbow macaroni. Just seemed more grown up. Started with a basic roux (equal parts butter and flour) then added some dijon mustard and seasonings. Added a little bit of pumpkin puree and a couple different kinds of cheese. I used sharp white cheddar, a little bit of orange cheddar, fresh parmesan, and even threw in a few slices of provolone cheese because I happened to have it in the fridge.
My favorite part of a good macaroni and cheese is the crusty top. For many years I use to just add a bunch more shredded cheese and let that get golden and crispy. Then I discovered Panko breadcrumbs and my crispy topping loving world was changed forever. Now it’s a must on every mac ‘n cheese I eat. Do you use Panko breadcrumbs? If you haven’t used them yet, I highly recommend you pick up a box next time your at the grocery store. They give such a nice, extra crispy, crusty top to mac ‘n cheese. Unfortunately they don’t stay so crispy once you’ve saved any leftovers. Heating up leftovers in the oven vs the microwave helps, that is, if you have any leftovers!
I hope you’ll give this Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese a try. And, if you love pasta and pumpkin, and looking for another really FANTASTIC dish this fall, take a look at my Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce I made last year. It’s amazing!
- 1 box penne pasta
- 3 Tbls. butter (plus extra for topping)
- 3 Tbls. flour
- 3 C. whole milk
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 Tbls. dijon mustard
- 2½ C. sharp cheddar cheese (white or orange, I used mostly white) + extra for topping
- ¾ C. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¾ C. pumpkin puree
- ½ C. panko breadcrumbs
- fresh thyme for garnish*
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Fill large pot with water,1 tsp. salt. and cook pasta according to package directions, except cook it a couple minutes less than directed so the pasta is al dente (it will cook more in the oven). Drain and set aside.
- In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk well, cooking the flour/butter mixture about a minute or so. Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Bring milk mixture to a simmer and continue cooking and stirring mixture until sauce is thickened a bit, about 5 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and dijon. Stir well to combine. Add pumpkin and stir to combine, then add cheeses and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat and add sauce to pasta. Toss well, then put pasta in casserole dish. Sprinkle more cheese on top, followed by panko. Dot with additional butter.
- Bake about 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
- Garnish with fresh thyme.