I am not usually a pumpkin person. It’s not a flavour I like or dislike, it’s sort of average for me. But this pumpkin mac & cheese is all kinds of amazing. The natural sweetness of pumpkin is complimented so well by a sharp spicy cheese. That plus a baked breadcrumb topping (keep reading for my secret tip for the best topping ever), makes this the kind of comfort dish that you’ll come back to every fall.
Strangely enough, I’ve never really given enough playtime to my love of mac & cheese on the blog. Even though I make it about once a week, and often share it on my Insta stories, I’ve never actually created a recipe featuring my ultimate comfort dish for the blog. How crazy is that?!
For me a classic mac & cheese is pure comfort, but I also love experimenting with new and interesting flavours. (Have you tried my makhani mac & cheese yet?). This pumpkin mac & cheese is also a definite winner. Sharing a few tips to take it to the next level.
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese – Tips and Tricks:
- You can either roast a small pie pumpkin and create your own puree, or use pure pumpkin puree. Don’t use pumpkin pie filling, and don’t try to roast a run of the mill jack-o-lantern type of pumpkin. Both will not give you the desired results.
- Use a sharp and slightly spicy cheese here. My preference is a sharp cheddar, especially Bothwell’s Horseradish Cheddar.
- Breadcrumbs work just fine for the topping, but if you really want to elevate the crunch factor, croutons and create a topping. I used herb and garlic croutons broken up, and it was perfect.
The perfect fall pasta, nothing beats a baked mac & cheese with pumpkin flavours.
3 cups dry elbow macaroni
Olive oil for tossing pasta
1/4 cup butter
3 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp salt ( or to taste)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper or to taste
2 cups of milk
2 cups shredded sharp or spicy cheddar cheese
1/4-1/2 cup pasta water
1/2 breadcrumbs (or crushed croutons for topping)
Butter cubes for topping
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni as per package directions. Drain, and toss lightly with olive oil. (Keep 1/2-1 cup of pasta water).
- Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add in flour, salt, and pepper and mix until smooth and cooked through – about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk into the butter and flour mixture, mixing continuously. Cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the pumpkin puree and stir well.
- Add cheddar cheese to the milk and pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. At this point the sauce will be quite thick because of the pumpkin puree and cheese, use the pasta water to thin out the sauce. Start with just 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Add sauce to the macaroni, combine well, and transfer to a baking dish. Cover the top layer of the pasta with breadcrumbs or crushed croutons, and top with small cubes of butter. Broil at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, or until browned from the top.
Remember – use unsweetened pumpkin puree, not pie filling!
A spicy cheese really does make all the difference in this pasta. If you can’t find a spicy cheese, use a teaspoon or harissa paste or a little horseradish sauce.