Last week my Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs was featured on Boston.com and because I was really happy with the results, I wanted to share the recipe here as well. While you can certainly make this recipe utilizing canned pumpkin puree, I suggest making your own pumpkin puree from scratch. It does take a little extra elbow grease with the seeding and roasting of the pumpkin but I assure you the extra effort is well worth it. Homemade pumpkin puree has this velvety texture that the canned stuff just can't compete with.
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs
1 – 2 1/2-3 lb. Sugar Pumpkin, scrubbed clean
6-7 whole cloves
3 pieces of whole wheat bread
1 lb. dried pasta
½ Vidalia onion, diced
6 TBS + 2 TBS butter unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 TBS flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda
1 + ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
1- 8 oz. log of goat cheese
1 TBS whole grain mustard
1 TBS + 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
A generous pinch nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
Olive Oil for drizzling
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut the pumpkin into six equal parts and scoop out the seeds. Pierce the insides of the pumpkin pieces with the cloves, salt generously and then lay onto a cookie sheet, flesh side down. Roast pumpkin until it is very soft, about 35-45 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin of the pumpkin and place the flesh into a blender or processor. Blend the pumpkin until smooth and velvety, and set the pumpkin puree aside.
On a baking sheet, toast the three pieces of bread until they start to brown a bit. Set them aside to cool, then use a processor to pulse the bread crumbs. Mix in 1 tsp fresh sage and a pinch of nutmeg. Using your hands, combine 2 TBS of softened butter to the crumbs until they are evenly distributed. Season with salt and set aside.
Heat a medium-sized sauce pot and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Add the diced onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook on medium heat until they start to lightly brown (about 15 minutes). Add the butter to the pot and once it has completely melted, gradually add the flour, stirring constantly. Let the butter-flour mixture heat for a minute or two and then remove the pan from the heat and gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly. Return the pan to medium heat and add two cups of the pumpkin puree, stir, then add the mustard, goat cheese, smoked Gouda and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Add the 1 TBS sage and cinnamon and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta until very al dente (about 5 minutes). Strain pasta and add to the cheese sauce, and pour into an oven-safe casserole dish. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheddar cheese and Sage Breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees until the breadcrumbs brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.