Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

This gooey and flavorful Pumpkin Mac & Cheese is the perfect way to celebrate the first day of Fall!

This mac and cheese is just as gooey and comforting as the original but just lightened up. By replacing some of the cheese with pumpkin, you get all those vitamins and flavor but less fat. This pasta is also vegetarian if you use vegetable stock making this perfect for a meatless dinner. Serve it with a big salad (like Our House Salad) and dinner has never been better!

The color of this mac & cheese is a little shocking at first. The pumpkin makes it a brilliant orange color that mimics the boxed mac & cheese. The cheddar cheese I used this time was also orange in color, which made this pasta even more brightly colored. 

About a year or so ago, I came across some gourmet salt blends at my local market. I bought a jar, on sale, of a Truffle Herb salt. It has of course, truffle salt, smoked flake salt, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, crushed juniper berries, and many more spices and salts. I use it on everything and am due to get another jar. This is the type I bought, from Chef Salt (not a advertisement, just love the salt!)

If you don't have Truffle Herb salt at home, try adding a pinch of dried rosemary, dried thyme, and a (teeny tiny) pinch of cinnamon to the cheese sauce to get some similar flavors!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
  • 1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 (about 14.5 oz) box pasta (I used multigrain penne)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups milk (I used unsweetened, original almond milk this time)
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock (or more milk)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste (optional)
  • very small pinch cinnamon (optional)
  • salt, to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons Truffle Herb salt blend)
  • coarse ground pepper, to taste
  • shredded parmesan, for serving (optional)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 F. 

In a bowl, stir the panko and the olive oil until combined. Set aside

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain. 

While the pasta is cooking, add the butter to a large skillet or pan. Put over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. 

Add the flour and stir to combine. Stir in the milk, stock, and pumpkin puree. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted. 

Season with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir in the pasta and toss to coat. 

Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle with the panko mixture. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bubbly and browned. Allow to set for about 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired and enjoy!

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