1 lb. pasta (I used gemelli, but use your favorite shape)
3 Tbls. butter (plus a little extra for topping)
3 Tbls. flour
3 C. whole milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbls. dijon mustard
2 1/2 C. cheddar cheese (+ extra for topping)
3/4 C. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 C. pumpkin puree
1/4 C. panko breadcrumbs
fresh thyme for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Fill large pot with water add some 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 oven proof skillet (I use cast iron), 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 pasta. Toss well to coat the pasta with sauce. Sprinkle a little 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.
*Transfer the pasta to a oven proof casserole dish if you don’t have an oven proof skillet.