I have so many different macaroni and cheese recipes. There’s my Macaroni and Goat Cheese, my Macaroni and Pimento Cheese, Hawaiian Mac n Cheese, and those are just the ones I’ve shared. It’s just a perfect food, the Macaroni and cheese. I like to use whole wheat pasta when I can, (because when it’s hiding underneath mounds of cheese and sauce, why not?) and sometimes I will sneak in some pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower so it’s more nutritious. I also like to cut down on the fat, but only when it doesn’t sacrifice flavor.
I think an extra sharp cheddar is a great cheese to use in most mac n cheeses because its flavor is so complex and its an easy to find, inexpensive option for most people. But it is not available in low fat. This means I just cut back in other areas. I don’t use cream or a lot of milk in mine usually, if at all. Instead I use some reserved pasta cooking water. That not only saves some calories, but money as well. And I rarely use more than a Tablespoon of butter to make my roux. It’s just not necessary to use more. But do not get me wrong, here. I am not making some sort of diet macaroni and cheese. No, ma’am. There is no such thing. I just don’t use unnecessary calories, in any of my recipes. If I can’t taste every single fat gram, then it’s not worth it and I don’t want it in my food.
But I’ve been making this Pumpkin Mac n Cheese for awhile now and just never wrote down what I was doing. Until now.
This recipe is really good. It’s not one of those recipes that uses pumpkin as a secret nutritious weapon, this recipe truly highlights the pumpkin flavor and weaves that flavor, seamlessly, into the flavor of gooey, extra sharp cheddar cheese. My whole family loves it-the baby and the child included. My son even had seconds and asked for it again tonight. And having him ask for more of it made me feel incredible as a cook, and also as a mom. Because I knew he was getting something that was actually good for him.
We ate ours lat night with my Balsamic Raw Kale Salad with Cranberries and Rosemary Candied Walnuts, and a Roasted Pork Tenderloin with a Dijon Mustard and Pepper Jelly Glaze. It was the perfect meal. And I’m counting down the minutes until lunchtime where I get to eat it all over again.
*Pumpkin Mac n Cheese
(this is a half size casserole, serves 4-6 ppl)
-In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook 10 oz of whole wheat penne, or any other short cut pasta (usually half a box) for 5 minutes, or until just before al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Set aside. (You will probably only need about 1/2 cup of the water.)
-In the same pot, on medium heat, melt 1 TB of unsalted butter with a splash of olive oil. When the butter has melted and has begun to foam, add 2 TB of flour and whisk until you get a paste. Allow this to cook for about 30 seconds before pouring in 1/2-3/4 cup of your reserved pasta water, while whisking.
-Add in 1 can of plain pumpkin puree and with a spatula, stir til combined.
-Add a good squirt or small spoonful of Dijon mustard, lots of freshly grated nutmeg, 2 tsp dried sage or 1 tsp fresh, a pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp of sugar, and a pinch of white pepper.
-Add 8 oz of extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated. Mix well until melted.
-Add 1/2 cup of sour cream (cottage cheese is a great, lower calorie option). Stir to combine.
-Taste to check your seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
-Crack an egg into a small bowl and beat with a fork. Add a couple spoonfuls of your hot sauce to the beaten egg and beat with the fork to bring it up to a warm temperature so it doesn’t scramble when you add it to the pot. Pour in your egg mixture while you’re stirring the sauce and stir well. Turn the heat off.
-Add in your cooked pasta and stir well to coat the pasta in the sauce. Add more of your pasta water if it seems too thick.
-Pour into a greased 9×9 baking dish.
-Top with up to 1 more cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese and enough unseasoned breadcrumbs to lightly cover the top, if desired.
-Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the top is golden brown and crispy.