Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pumpkin Mac N Cheese Casserole

Ok, it's been a while.  Sorry about that.  Now, on to the deliciousness.
Pumpkin Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese
Hello my yummy friend.  You are even better with broccoli mixed in, then I can say I'm doubling down on the veggies for my family!  (Picture from Rachel Ray's Official Website)

I haven't always loved pumpkin. Until recently, pumpkin and I held a grudging agreement-- I respect that it probably in the top three definitive symbols that Autumn has really arrived, and it agreed to stay out of my food.  Certainly out of my pie.

But then one day it snuck itself into my bread.  Then into my mocha latte at the local coffee shop.  Then last year our CSA gave us something like 12 Long Island Squash, which are really pale looking pumpkins.  I couldn't just relegate them into our compost pile, so I spent many an evening post dinner roasting them, then pureeing them the following morning.

So I went on a hunt for something besides Pumpkin Bread I could make.  Not because Pumpkin Bread isn't awesome, but really, I wanted to try to use this offensive squash for a main meal, and I couldn't be talked into pumpkin soup.

And I came across this gem.  And it has become a favorite in our house.  It is SO yummy, and has had multiple variations.  Now, along with those crock pot dinners, it has become one of our Fall Favorites.

Below, you will find my most common variation, based on what we like the most, a way to trim out some of the fat, and based on what we have in the cupboard.  I'll list in parentheses other things you can use instead of the stuff I have listed.  Feel free to interpret to your heart's desire.  Also, I double down on the pasta, and then freeze half (or more) of the recipe, and just throw in the oven on another day, so I've made two dinners for literally the extra $1.50 and no extra time.  Because it makes a LOT of cheese sauce.  Which is always good.

Pumpkin (or butternut squash) Mac N Cheese


  • 2 boxes whole wheat or whole grain short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 2 bags of frozen broccoli
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef broth (chicken broth or amber beer, although if you were going to use beer instead, I would follow Rachel Ray's recipe for proportions of beer and milk)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Molasses (2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • A couple of pinches ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée or 2 cups puréed fresh roasted pumpkin or butternut squash (Lets be honest, Fresh is better, but sometimes canned just works)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese, divided (let's be honest- I probably use more than 2 cups of cheese, but it depends on the kind you have, how sharp you like it, and what the sauce tastes like.)
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley or chives to garnish 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente.  One minute before pasta is done, add frozen broccoli. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add broth or beer. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in molasses (or honey or syrup) and milk. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.

Whisk in pumpkin purée then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.