Oh. My. GOODNESS. You guys.
This is SERIOUS.
This post today… it is about my new second-favorite pasta dish… ever.
(My favorite pasta dish currently is, and I’m pretty darn sure will forever be, the gnocchi in tomato sauce at Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill in St. Louis, MO. Oddly enough, it does not appear on their online menu… I just said seven prayers hoping that this does not mean they have stopped making it. That gnocchi makes up at least 58% of the reason I am dying to go back to STL. But anyway…)
Do you have any idea how much I looove pasta? (Very, very much.)
Do you have any idea how much pasta I eat? (A lot. A lot of pasta.)
Do you have any idea how many truly amazing pasta meals I have devoured in my lifetime? (Quite a few… lucky me!)
Now. Do you understand how much love I have to have for this pumpkin mac and cheese to place it on a pedestal above almost all the pasta I have eaten in my life?! I mean… whoa. It must be good, right?!
It’s so. SO. good.
Can I still call this mac and cheese if I actually used orecchiette? I think so. “Orecchiette and cheese” just does not roll off the tongue as nicely.
Lest you think I’m trying to glorify my cooking abilities and going all “I utilized my culinary expertise to craft the most delectable pasta experience imaginable” on you, let me tell you that the deliciousness of this mac and cheese is attributable not at all to me but rather entirely to the types and amounts of cheese I used.
I was at Walmart when I decided I was going to make pumpkin mac and cheese for pumpkin week—thank you, iPhone, for allowing me to Google “creative pumpkin recipes” when my computer is nowhere near me!—and so I figured I’d buy ingredients there. Naturally, I hit up the cheese section first. The original recipe uses fontina, so I was on the lookout for that… no dice. I did, however, find the absolute makers of this mac and cheese… Red Apple Cheese’s Apple Smoked cheeses!
I had never seen or tried these before, ever. They caught my eye, though, and I ended up picking up apple smoked cheddar and apple smoked Gruyère to replace the elusive fontina. I had a feeling the smokey apple flavor of the cheese would blend well with the pumpkin in the mac and cheese… and boy, was I right. The flavors were incredible together.
There is one thing y’all may object to about this recipe… after everything, it really doesn’t turn out like much of a mac and cheese at all. It ends up more as a dish of pasta covered in an incredibly rich, thick, cheesy, and totally spoon-able sauce (like a spiffed-up alfredo, if you will). I promise, you will not miss the traditional feel of mac and cheese once you take a bite of this pasta. I ate the entire dish in two sittings… I’m pretty sure that was actually eight servings. Whatever. No regrets. I mean… YOLO, right?!
(If you’re one of those people who is super tired of hearing everyone say YOLO every five seconds, you probably shouldn’t hang around me much. I’m totally not over it.)
Ok. This recipe has: pumpkin (seasonal!), cheese (amazing!), whipping cream (decadent!), sage (fancy!), pasta (carb-o-licious!)… I don’t really have any selling words left. If you’re not already running to make this ASAP, who are you?
Pumpkin Mac and Apple-Smoked Cheese
The flavor of the mac and cheese I ended up with is entirely dependent on the apple-smoked cheeses I mentioned above. I highly, highly recommend making this recipe with them!!! If you don’t want to or can’t get your hands on them, this will work with any other cheeses you wish to use. However, these cheeses I used pack an intense flavor punch… so I can’t tell you your pasta won’t be a little bland if you use a milder/plain cheese. But recipes are for experimentation… so use whatever floats your boat!
Also, I tripled the amount of cheese in the original recipe… teehee. In my defense, who makes a mac and cheese dish meant to serve 8 with 4 ounces of cheese?! A half of an ounce of cheese per serving… what is this? A cheese portion for ants?! Unacceptable.
Adapted/changed from Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: 8 servings
8 ounces pasta of your choice (I used orecchiette, a.k.a. little hat pasta! The cutest!)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (Why not?)
1 cup whipping cream (Yeahhh, baby!)
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces Red Apple Cheese Apple Smoked Cheddar
4 ounces Red Apple Cheese Apple Smoked Gruyere
4 ounces sharp white cheddar of your choice (My very favorite is Cabot Extra Sharp Vermont White Cheddar.)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I like Panko.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a quart of salted water to a boil.
3. Lower your pasta into the boiling water and cook it to al dente. (It’ll keep cooking later in the oven!)
4. Drain the pasta once it’s cooked, and return it to the pot.
5. SAUCE TIME! (This is the cooking equivalent of party time… very exciting.)
6. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Medium, medium.
7. Add the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the melted butter.
8. Add the whipping cream and milk all at once. Stir the whole mixture over medium heat until thickened.
9. Best part!!! Add the cheese, pumpkin, & sage and stir over medium until the cheese is melted. (Wait. Though this is great, it’s not the best part. The best part is eating this all at the end. Duh.)
10. Taste the ahhhhhmazing cheese sauce and season more if necessary. Then, stir it into the cooked pasta until all the noodles (or tiny hats, in my case) are fully coated.
11. Transfer the pasta to a baking dish. Actually, you can eat it as is if you wish, but I like crispy bread crumbs on my mac and cheese 🙂 .
12. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the pasta, along with some extra Gruyère/cheddar if you want brown crispy cheese atop your baked masterpiece! (Umm… who does not want this? It’s the best.)
13. Bake, uncovered, in the 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
14. Let stand for 10 minutes. Okay, fine. 2 minutes. Dig in!!!