Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Fall is here in earnest, so it's time to make some heartier dinners! Pumpkin Mac & Cheese perfectly fits the bill. 

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Taste and Tell's excellent version. I made hers last year and loved it but wanted to pump up the flavor of the spices, among a few other tweaks. Rotini is just so perfect for catching every drop of this amazing sauce, so I have to recommend it over penne.

16 oz whole wheat rotini

2 slices crusty artisan bread
1 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 C stock
2 C milk

1 tsp allspice
2 tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
2 tsp nutmeg (grated is best)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper

2 C pumpkin puree (a little more than a can; you can probably just do one 15 oz can and be fine)
2 Tbsp honey

4 oz fontina, shredded (keeps the sauce from breaking)
4 oz extra sharp cheddar, shredded (this is the flavor; you could try a flavorful gruyere instead)
2 oz other flavorful cheese (I used Toscano)

Cook the rotini a couple of minutes shy of the box time (quite al dente). Drain and set aside in the strainer. 

Process the bread into crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, dice the bread into the smallest cubes that you can manage. If you do use a processor, grate the cheese in it after the bread. No processor--grating 10 oz of cheese by hand won't take too long.

Melt the 2 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet and toast the crumbs/cubes and sage in the butter until golden. Set aside. 

In the skillet, melt the 4 Tbsp of butter over medium heat until golden brown. Add the flour and whisk like mad. Don't be afraid to let it brown--when it comes to a roux, color is flavor. My roux was quite brown, just short of almost burnt, and it tasted great and nutty in the final product. Stir in the stock and whisk until smooth, cooking down a bit, and then whisk in the milk. 

Whisk in the seasonings and let the sauce cook down until thick (coating the back of a wooden spoon). Stir in the pumpkin and honey and cook it down about two minutes more.

Turn off the heat and add 2 cups (8 oz) of the combined shredded cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted fully into the sauce.

Place rotini into a 10x13 baking dish or pan. Pour the sauce over it and stir to combine. Sprinkle first the remaining shredded cheese and then the breadcrumbs over the top. Place under the broiler until the cheese on top is melted (set alarms for yourself at maximum 2 minute intervals--the broiler acts fast!).

Don't be alarmed--it's not burnt. The bread I used had a very dark crust. Make sure to watch your broiler!

This recipe serves at least 8--the whole wheat pasta and pumpkin cheese sauce are very filling. It's amazing as leftovers!

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