When I first suggested we were going to dive head-first into the Pumpkin Spice pool over the next few weeks, I told you I’d be sharing a couple of recipes that might be…well…let’s just say they are non-traditional ways of using pumpkin.
Welcome to the first of these. Yes! Today, I’m sharing my recipe for Pumpkin Mac & Cheese.
I know. I know!
“What’s wrong with just a regular, good old Mac & Cheese?”
However, sometimes it’s good to try new things. And this is one of those recipes you’re going to want to give a shot.
Most of the list of components for our Pumpkin Mac & Cheese are pretty traditional It’s mostly made up of Butter, Flour, Milk, Cheese and Pasta.
For the cheese, I chose to use a Medium White Cheddar, Parmesan and a little bit of Fontina for it’s “creaminess”. You can, however, just go with a simple Sharp Cheddar if that’s better for you.
For the pasta, I went with a Penne but you can also use something like Elbow Macaroni (of course), Rotini or Small Shells, as well.
So, that’s it for the “traditional” ingredients. But this isn’t a traditional Mac & Cheese, now is it? So brace yourself for the “stranger” elements.
First, there’s Pumpkin.
“Different but okay”
Then, there’s sugar.
And, finally, there’s cinnamon.
“That’s it! I’m outta here!!”
Wait! Wait. Please come back.
Just hang with me. I know it all sounds weird but it really works. Please have faith!
While our Pumpkin Mac & Cheese is far from traditional, the first few steps are exactly that. The process is nearly exactly the same as what we did to make the cheese sauce for our Lobster Nachos. The technique can be used for almost any recipe that requires a similar sauce.
We begin by making a roux. In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the Butter. Add the All-Purpose Flour and combine. The mixture should look a little like wet sand. Continue to cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until it turns golden brown in color and is giving off a slightly “nutty” aroma; about 5 minutes.
Next, carefully add the Milk and whisk to combine. Lower the heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally.
Yep! We’re making a (fancy French term warning) Béchamel Sauce.
Continue to cook the Béchamel until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Pasta, Pasta, Pasta
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with Water and Salt and bring to a boil. Add whatever type of pasta you’d like to use and cook to about 2 minutes less than you’d consider it traditionally done. (It should have slightly more bite to it than al dente)
Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water for later use.
- Pro Tip: When prepping the water for any pasta, use more salt than you probably think you should. You’ll want it to, almost, have the salinity of sea water because that’s what Italians originally used to cook their pasta. That’s, at least, how it was explained to me in culinary school. Whether it’s the truth, or not, it does work very well at ensuring your pasta is well seasoned.
Let’s Get Weird!
Here’s where things start to go “off the rails” from a traditional Mac & Cheese. Once the Béchamel thickens, lower the heat and add the Pumpkin, Ground Mustard, White Pepper, Cayenne, Freshly Ground Nutmeg, Sugar and Cinnamon. Stir until well combined.
Add the Shredded Cheeses to a large bowl. Remove the Pumpkin Béchamel from the heat and pour over the cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted and pumpkin sauce is thoroughly combined.
If the mixture gets a little thicker than you’d prefer, you can thin it by adding a little of the reserved Pasta Water.
- If you should forget to save some of the pasta water, you can thin the sauce with either milk or just a little bit of regular water. Not that I would know anything about that because that never happens to me. (By “never”, I actually mean regularly!)
Once the cheese has melted and the pumpkin has been completely combined, you’ll want to taste the cheese sauce for your Pumpkin Mac & Cheese. You’ll, almost certainly, want to begin by adding Salt. That should help bring the flavor of the cheese forward. You may also want to add a touch more Sugar or Cinnamon. Both of those will help bring the Pumpkin flavor forward.
- Remember, when you’re seasoning “to taste”, always add a little and taste then, if necessary, add a little more and taste again. Repeat as many times as necessary to get the flavor you want. Just keep the additions on the small side because you can always include more but you can’t remove it once it’s joined the party.
Once the Pumpkin Cheese Sauce is at the flavor you’d like, it’s time to invite your cooked Pasta to the party. Add it to the bowl and carefully fold with the sauce until the pasta is completely coated.
Return the Pumpkin Mac & Cheese to a large pot over low heat and hold until you’re ready to serve, stirring occasionally. If the sauce starts to become too thick, you can once again thin it with the reserved pasta water or a splash of milk.
Serve warm, topped with chopped Fresh Chives, as a main course or hearty side dish.
I really hope you’ll try this Pumpkin Mac & Cheese recipe because the results are phenomenal. There are so many layers of flavor. First you get the wonderful cheesiness and comforting mouth feel just like your more traditional version. Then you get that hint of pumpkin made that much better with a touch of sweetness from the sugar an a bit of spice from the cinnamon.
There’s just a little, surprise bit of yummy, comfort food, Fall goodness in every bite.
Be brave! Make this odd, yet delicious, Autumnal Disney Dish tonight!
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
Makes approximately 4 – entree or 8 – side servings
- 1 lb – Pasta – Elbow, Penne, Rotini or Shells
- 4 tbsp – Unsalted Butter
- 4 tbsp – All-Purpose Flour
- 3 cups – Milk
- 1 15oz can – Pure Pumpkin Purée
- 1 tsp – Ground Mustard
- 1/4 tsp – Cayenne Pepper
- 1/8 tsp – White Pepper
- 1/8 tsp – Freshly Ground Nutmeg
- 1 tbls – Granulated Sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp – Cinnamon
- 3 cups – Shredded Cheese
- Kosher or Sea Salt – To Taste
- Fresh Chives – Chopped – For Garnish
- Melt the Unsalted Butter in a large pan over medium-high heat
- Add the All-Purpose Flour and stir to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until the mixture turns light golden brown and has a slightly nutty aroma; approximately 5 minutes
- Add the Milk and whisk to combine and bring to a simmer
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon; approximately 5 minutes
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of well salted pot of water to a boil and add your choice of Pasta. Cook until just short of al dente. Strain and reserve Cooked Pasta and 1 cup of water
- Stir in the Pumpkin Purée, Ground Mustard, Cayenne Pepper, White Pepper, Freshly Ground Nutmeg, Sugar and Cinnamon. Stir until well combined
- Add the Shredded Cheese to a large bowl. Pour the Pumpkin mixture over the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is thoroughly combined. Adjust seasonings to taste
- Fold the Cooked Pasta into the Pumpkin-Cheese Sauce and stir until the completely coated. Thin the sauce, as necessary, with reserved Pasta Water
- Return the Pumpkin Mac & Cheese to a large pot over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve
- Serve warm, topped with chopped Fresh Chives
Be sure to check out our other Disney Dishes