Pumpkin season is here and I couldn't be happier. Fall is my favorite time of year and one of the main reasons for that is the abundance of wonderful produce: winter squash, apples, turnips, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, grapes, and more. Last year I started making macaroni and cheese with butternut squash puree. I never posted the recipe for some reason, but it became one of our favorite fall meals. On a recent cold and rainy day, I really felt like a macaroni and cheese for dinner. This time, I decided to make it with pumpkin puree and lots of smoky mozzarella, smoked paprika, and cheddar. It was perfect for a cold autumn day. I think you could also use regular mozzarella and smoked cheddar if you wanted - as long as one of these cheeses is smoked so you get that smoky flavor.
This dish is going to join my other macaroni and cheese creations: classic, Mexican, summer squash, butternut squash, broccoli, and I'm sure others that are yet to come. The great thing about the use of pumpkin puree is that it provides creamy sauce so you can cut down on the use of milk. This recipe makes a great main dish with a green salad or a side dish.
Smoky pumpkin macaroni and cheese
1 lb. pasta (shells or another short cut pasta)
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, lower for less heat
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, preferably whole
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups shredded smoked mozzarella, divided
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
Butter a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just under al dente. Drain when finished and return to the cooking pot. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the cayenne and smoked paprika. Whisk until fragrant. Then add the flour. Whisk and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Cook, whisking often, until the milk just begins to thicken. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and continue cooking, whisking often, until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese one handful at a time until melted and smooth. Leave about 1/3 cup of mozzarella aside. Pour the sauce over the pasta in the cooking pot. Gently stir until evenly coated. Pour into the baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake in the oven until bubbly and golden, approximately 20-25 minutes.
What was I cooking one year ago?: green tomato chutney
Two years ago?: chicken with apple and shallot sauce