Fall has become synonymous with pumpkins – anything and everything pumpkin imaginable. There are many other flavors and foods I enjoy in the fall months but the obsession with pumpkin does hearken to seasonality. Not only are pumpkins in season but so are brussels sprouts, carrots, sage, rutabagas and a myriad of squash and gourds. Early fall is a time for a shifting of gears from tomatoes, cucumbers and the like to the fall crops.
That being said, I do love pumpkin. We tend polarize it more than other squash varieties by relegating it to pies, breads and lattes; rather than restricting this gourd, we should let it’s versatility shine. Many years ago, I remember watching Food Network’s Ellie Krieger put together a beautiful macaroni and cheese in which she incorporated squash puree to sneak in vegetables. After stocking up on pumpkin puree this dish came to mind and I decided to try my hand at a pumpkin macaroni and cheese. With classic Southern mac & cheese in mind, I put together what I thought would a full-bodied pumpkin version and I was not disappointed. The result was deliciously creamy, cheesy and rich albeit not low in fat by any means but that’s okay with me;
10 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni or mini penne
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 c unsalted chicken stock
1 c milk
1/2 c cream
2 oz. pancetta, choppped
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 c ricotta
1/8 t cardamom
1 t dijon mustard
1 pinch salt
1/4 t chili powder
1 t rosemary, finely chopped
1 c sharp cheddar, finely grated
1/4 c Jarlsberg, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c shaved Parmesan
2 slices deli cheese, provolone or swiss
Heat oven to 375F.
Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.
In a small pan, saute chopped shallot and pancetta. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring white wine and chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in pumpkin, milk, ricotta, shallots and pancetta. Allow to cook over medium for about 15 minutes; stir in cardamom, dijon, rosemary, chili powder, salt and pepper. Temper beaten eggs with sauce (so as not to scramble); then add to sauce.
Slowly stir in sharp cheddar and Jarlsberg until combined. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Set aside. Pour pasta and sauce into a 9×9 baking dish. Tear apart slices of deli cheese and add place on top of pasta. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Serve hot.