Cheesy, creamy mac and cheese is just about everybody’s favorite comfort food. This year, add some pureed pumpkin for a fall twist on this nostalgic recipe the whole family will love.
How to Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
The great thing about this version of mac and cheese is it's super weeknight friendly: you don’t have to deal with making a roux for the cheese sauce.
Simply cook the pasta just long enough to soften it, drain it, and when it’s added to the sauce the starch in the pasta does its work in the oven to thicken it. Magic.
What’s the Best Pasta to Use?
Choose medium-sized curvy pasta shapes such as cavatappi, campanelle (little bells), orecchiette (little ears), or lumache (snails) with plenty of nooks and crannies to capture the sauce. And don’t forget traditional elbows!
What Cheese is Best in Pumpkin Mac and Cheese?
Cream cheese, Gruyere, and cheddar team up to make this homerun dinner super creamy and packed with flavor. The Gruyere adds nuttiness that complements the pumpkin and cheddar gives the sauce a sharp edge, but you can certainly experiment with other cheeses if you’d like.
What to Serve with Pumpkin Mac and Cheese?
Enjoy this mac and cheese with a glass of Gold Peak Sweet Tea as we welcome fall and the warm weather becomes cooler. It’s sweetened with real sugar cane so you can enjoy its natural sweetness without any artificial added flavors. Extra bonus: it has the great flavor of tea you brewed yourself without any of the effort!
If you’re looking to mix things up, they’ve got some other great options that would pair perfectly with a fall pasta as well: Gold Peak Unsweetened Tea, Gold Peak Green Tea, Gold Peak Zero Sugar (Diet Tea).
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Butter (for the baking dish)
- 2 cups fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound short pasta such as elbows, cavatappi, or orecchiette
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup canned, unflavored pumpkin puree
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces and softened at room temperature Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 cups grated Gruyere, about 6 ounces
- 2 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar, about 7 ounces
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 9-by-13-inch or equivalent baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a small bowl, stir the breadcrumbs, melted butter, thyme, salt, and pepper together. Set aside.
Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
In the now empty pasta pot over medium heat, whisk together the milk, cream, and pumpkin until smooth.
Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the cream cheese until combined.
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the nutmeg, cayenne, Gruyere, and cheddar until the sauce is smooth.
Add the par-cooked pasta to the pot and taste for seasoning. Add salt and more pepper, if desired. The sauce will look soupy at this point, but will thicken as it bakes.
Transfer the pasta to the baking dish and top with the buttered breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.