Friday, June 1, 2012

Savory Three Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni

I used three different cheeses in this macaroni and cheese. The pumpkin is actually a background flavor... it added a nice richness and creaminess to the macaroni.

4 tablespoons butter
4 tbsp flour
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 cup grated Gouda cheese
8 ounces (1/2 can) packed pumpkin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 pound rotini or elbow macaroni
3/4 cup panko crumbs

1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute or until tan in color.

While whisking, slowly pour in the cream.  Continue cooking until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 5-8 minutes.

Stir cheeses and and mix until melted, then turn heat to low.  Add spices and season cheese sauce with salt and pepper to taste.  Adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Cover a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Cook the pasta until slightly underdone, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the pasta to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.  Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. 

Pour the mixture into a casserole or baking dish.  Sprinkle panko crumbs over the top.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, then serve.

Tips:  Pumpkin pie, albeit delicious, has really ruined our idea of the pumpkin.  I never thought about pumpkin as a viable ingredient until I made a savory pumpkin soup and remembered, hey, this is just a squash!  On that note, you can substitute any other type of squash in this recipe, simply cook, drain and puree it before adding.  Also, any type of noodle will work, I think rotini are prettier but elbow macaroni is the trusted standby so that part is up to the cook.  Enjoy!

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