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Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

“Be thankful for the little things,” is, of course, very good advice.

One of the little things for which I am thankful for today is our oven. It’s not a very pretty oven at the moment, not very clean, but it has this wonderful feature: a ‘timed bake’ setting. I can put a dish in my oven, set the oven to turn on at a certain time, on a certain temperature, and stop baking at a certain time.

Probably many people have ovens like this, but my family never had one while I was growing up, so I am still relishing the novelty of coming home from work to a casserole bubbling in the oven.

In theory, that is how the ‘timed bake’ setting works, but because I had been distracted this morning, I remembered to set the timer on the oven, but forgot to switch it from ‘off’ to ‘timed bake.’ So, when I got home from work, the oven was ‘off’ and my macaroni and cheese was stone cold.

That was OK, though, because Thursday nights are usually my non-busy nights. And I was so excited about what was in the oven that nothing could puncture my buoyancy.

You see, I was not just eating macaroni and cheese tonight; I was going to be eating Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese. Because it is fall. And one of the best ways to celebrate fall is with pumpkin. (Even if the pumpkin puree used is actually part of last year’s pumpkin that has been sitting in the freezer for a year.) Due to the unusual mix of ingredients, I was eager to see how it would turn out.

It turned out delicious.



See?

I could hardly taste the pumpkin at all in this dish. I can’t decide if that made me happy or sad, but either way, this dish opened up in my mind all kinds of doors for sneaking pureed vegetables into casseroles, especially for picky eaters like my brother and my dad. Why not pureed broccoli? Or pureed cooked spinach?

I now enjoy delightful fantasies of inviting my picky-eating brother and dad over for dinner sometime. Unbeknown to them, as they make polite conversation and compliment our culinary achievements, they will be ingesting all manner of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that their bodies don’t normally get!

I am so excited.

Anyway, I would like to share the recipe with you. I pulled it out of the Better Homes and Gardens October magazine:

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

2 c. dried elbow macaroni
2 T. butter
2 T. all-uprpose flour
1 c. whipping cream*
1 c. whole milk*
4 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded (1 cup)*
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 T. snipped fresh sage or ½ t. dried leaf sage, crushed
½ c. soft bread crumbs
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 T. olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta in a large pot following package directions; drain. Return to pot.

2. In medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, ½ t. salt, and ½ t. black pepper. Add cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in Fontina, pumpkin, and sage until cheese is melted. Stir sauce into pasta. Transfer to ungreased 2-quart rectangular baking dish.

3. In bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, nuts, and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage.

*We did use the whipping cream and whole milk this time, but next time we’re going to try it with a less heavy option (probably our standard 1% milk, maybe some half and half.) We did not use the Fontina cheese because it’s kind of expensive. We used some shredded Colby-jack and shredded parmesan.


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