Gretchen’s Table: Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Gives a Fall Twist to the Classic

Football isn’t the only thing that drives people crazy this time of year.

September also marks the start of pumpkin spice season, with the warm (and controversial) seasonal fall flavor found in everything from your Starbucks latte and Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale to cookies, popcorn, spreads, breads. , creamer, yogurt, ice cream, cereal and toaster pastries. Love it or hate it, Nissin even makes a cup of pumpkin spice instant ramen noodles.

This scrumptious mac and cheese recipe ditches the “spice” part of the popular duo, but puts in plenty of pumpkin – or should we say squash – because the bright orange puree that goes into Libby’s famous pure pumpkin cans is in makes Dickinson squash, an elongated American winter squash with a tan-colored rind and dense flesh.

I used ruffled campanelle noodles for a little flair, but any hollow, tubular noodles will work well. Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

For the mac and cheese

8 ounces rigatoni or elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup half and half (or cream or milk)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 teaspoon dry ground yellow mustard

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated, divided

4 ounces grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese blend, or similar

For garnish

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used plain panko)

1 teaspoon of paprika

Cook pasta according to package directions until firm or al dente. (Make sure not to overcook or it will turn to mush when cooked.) Drain, rinse and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from fire.

Stir in half and half, return the pan to the heat and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Cook 1 minute to thicken, stirring constantly.

Stir in pumpkin, mustard, paprika, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in about 1 1/2 cups cheddar, plus all the Parmesan/Pecorino Romano, and cook over medium-low heat until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute, stirring almost constantly. Turn off the fire. Add to pasta and toss to coat.

Transfer the mac and cheese to a buttered pan or divide into individual buttered ramekins. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese evenly and set aside to make the topping.

Prepare the filling: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter (about 30 seconds on high). Add the breadcrumbs and mix with a fork until small lumps form. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over mac and cheese. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Mac and cheese can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and gently reheated in the microwave.

For 4 to 6 people.

— Adapted from “Cooking with Pumpkin” by Averie Sunshine

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