Our friend Kelly was hosting a pumpkin-themed potluck last weekend and I decided to make macaroni and cheese with pumpkin in it. I thought I was so genius until a quick google search made it clear that pumpkin mac and cheese is a total thing. Damn! But I decided to go for it anyway and whip up something of my own. This is actually quite a bit healthier than your usual mac n cheese (if you ignore all the cheese that’s in it…) since the creaminess of the sauce is from pumpkin rather than cream. And it doesn’t taste overwhelmingly like pumpkin so even non-pumpkin fanatics (such as myself actually!) will be into it.
3 cups 1% or 2% milk / 3 tbsp butter / 3 tbsp all-purpose flour / 3 to 4 cups grated old cheddar / 2 cups canned pumpkin / 1/4 tsp or so of cayenne pepper / salt to taste / ~600 grams macaroni pasta
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter and the flour until you get a smooth golden brown paste. Then, slowly at first, pour in the milk while continuously stirring. Then to test your patience, cook the sauce, giving it a stir quite frequently to keep it from burning, for about 10 to 15 minutes or so. It should thicken up quite a bit but it will still be a relatively thin white sauce. I figured the pumpkin would thicken it up a lot, and it did! In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Next, stir the pumpkin into the sauce and then the grated cheese until heated through and smooth. Season with the cayenne and salt. Our kiddo gave the sauce his seal of approval as he couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
Cook the macaroni until al dente, strain and toss into the sauce. You can serve the mac and cheese as is or you can throw it in the oven for a quick bake. I baked mine for about 20 minutes at 350F but I actually preferred it prior to baking it. If you like a super saucy mac and cheese, I wouldn’t bother with the oven but if you like a drier, more casserole-y mac and cheese that you can cut into and serve, then bake it. Or if you just want to crisp up the top, maybe toss it under the broiler for a few minutes. It’s mac and cheese, I’m sure you know how you like it!
Overall, I’m happy with how the pumpkin cheese sauce turned out and this makes a great mac and cheese for the fresh fall weather. Enjoy!