What we love about this pumpkin mac and cheese
- We love how adding a bit of pumpkin adds so much extra creaminess and a subtle sweetness that sets this mac and cheese sauce apart. Even if you don’t feel like baking this dish with the crumb topping you will still have an outstanding homemade mac and cheese.
- Topping this dish off with sage infused breadcrumbs adds an element of texture but it also adds a crazy amount of cozy fall flavor. If you are looking for a unique dish to bring along to your Thanksgiving gathering this is it! This can even be prepared ahead of time and baked just before serving to make everything go extra smoothly.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it
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Ingredients you might need to pick up
- Pumpkin puree – We use pumpkin puree from a can, but homemade puree will work too.
- Sharp cheddar cheese – If you prefer a medium cheddar, go for it. We just prefer the flavor of sharp cheddar.
- Gouda cheese – We love the flavor gouda adds to this recipe, but you can subsitute another creamy cheese like fontina or havarti.
- Fresh sage leaves – This is optional, if you don’t like sage, feel free to skip it or use a different herb that you prefer, such as rosemary or thyme.
- Panko breadcrumbs
How to make this mac and cheese with pumpkin
Infuse the breadcrumbs. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When butter has melted add roughly chopped sage leaves and allow them to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until butter begins to brown. Remove from heat, allow to cool and stir in breadcrumbs. Set aside for topping.
Cook the pasta. Cook pasta just under al denté, according to package directions – this will be just a minute or two shy of recommended cooking time for al denté. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, drain and set aside.
Make the sauce. Melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour to form a roux. Slowly stir in milk, whisking as it heats through. Whisk in cheese, a little at a time until it is melted through then whisk in pumpkin.
Bake the dish. Stir pasta into sauce then transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese and then sage infused breadcrumbs. Bake at 350˚F until breadcrumbs are golden and cheese is bubbling (about 20-25 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Everything you need to know about this pumpkin pasta
Pumpkin pairs well with a variety of cheeses, depending on the recipe and of course, personal preference. We chose sharp cheddar and gouda for this recipe, a fontina or gruyere cheese would substitute well for gouda if needed. Both of these semi-hard cheeses balance the sweet flavors of the pumpin perfectly for this savory, autumnal baked pasta dish.
One of our favorite ways to add extra flavor to a mac and cheese is in the crunchy topping. Making a breadcrumbs with herb-infused melted butter and sprinkling it over your mac and cheese before baking adds tons of flavor and a delicious texture to your mac and cheese. Make sure you salt your pasta water to help the pasta absorb some seasoning before it is baked into the dish.
If you want to ensure you have a creamy mac and cheese, consider these techniques: Incorporate a bit of pasta water into the cheese sauce, as the starches help maintain creaminess and stretch the sauce without diluting it. After baking, cover the dish to retain moisture, especially if you don’t plan to serve it immediately. Be mindful not to overbake the pasta, as everything is already cooked; the goal is to merely crisp up the breadcrumb mixture and melt the cheese on top.
Baked mac and cheese will always have a slightly less creamy texture than a stovetop mac and cheese, this is because the pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it bakes – which is unavoidable. To prevent your mac and cheese from drying out in the oven, make sure you have enough creamy sauce to thoroughly coat the pasta. Only bake this dish until it’s heated through and has a golden, bubbly top, but avoid prolonged baking that could cause drying. You can also cover the dish with foil or a lid while baking to help retain moisture and keep the mac and cheese creamy – if you do this make sure to remove the foil for the last 5-10 minutes to allow for the breadcrumbs to become crispy and golden.
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- 1 pound elbow pasta
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 ½ cups gouda cheese, shredded (fontina cheese option)
- ½ coarse salt
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 sage leaves, for infusing melted butter
- In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When butter has melted, add sage leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until butter begins to brown, stirring as needed to prevent burning. Remove from heat, allow to cool and stir in breadcrumbs.
- In a large stockpot with salted water, cook pasta according to package directions for 1-2 minutes less than al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, drain and set aside.
- In the empty pasta pot, melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour to form a roux. Slowly stir in milk, whisking as it heats through. Then, mix in cheese, a little at a time until it is melted through then whisk in pumpkin.
- Return the pasta to the pot with the sauce and stir to coat. Then, transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese and then sage infused breadcrumbs.
- Bake at 350˚F until breadcrumbs are golden and cheese is bubbling (about 20-25 minutes).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Elbow
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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