This version of mac and cheese gets it’s over-the-top flavor from pumpkin, bacon and fresh sage.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is just what the fall season requires! We’ve included instructions for two variations: a weeknight casserole and additions to make this a holiday worthy side dish.
I am all about pumpkin! This time of year I buy lots of pumpkins exclusively for baking and cooking which I wouldn’t dare put outside to let the squirrels eat. Nope, I’m not sharing, beause I always have a recipe in mind that uses pumpkin, from black beans to fried rice.
My favorite type of pumpkin is Pennsylvania Crookneck Squash which resembles a huge butternut squash. I used to drive back home every year to my mom’s neck of the woods to buy them in rural PA, but luckily, a lot more farms are growing heirloom squash these days. This variety is one of my favorites because it has few seeds and lots of flesh, making it easy to dice. If I can’t find it locally, I’ll fall back on a Fairytale or Long Island Cheese Pumpkin. When in doubt, you are likely to find an affordable cooking pumpkin any time of year at an international market since pumpkin is a staple in Latin American and Asian cooking.
Knowing that you can find it year round is life-changing! Since pumpkin is naturally sweet, it can balance spicy dishes, like this Pumpkin Chicken Chili or this Thai Pumpkin Corn Soup. But I also love how creamy it can be when it’s cooked.
In this pumpkin mac and cheese, not only is the squash flavorful, it adds to the sauciness of the dish. As the pumpkin cooks, it breaks down adding to the creaminess of the sauce while still leaving beautiful orange jewels in the casserole.
But I had to take this macaroni and cheese even further since the holidays are approaching! So, I added diced bacon and a large helping of fresh sage to compliment the pumpkin flavor.
I was so confident in this pumpkin mac and cheese, that when my mom came to help with the owl cake, this is what I fed her for dinner. After one bite she was asking when the recipe would be on the blog! So, it’s mom approved on top of being sweet, savory and cheesy! I’d call that a recipe win! But try it for yourself and see.
We've got two versions of this pumpkin mac. The recipe below is great as a main dish or side for weeknight meals. For holiday meals, see the recipe notes to learn how to make this casserole extra special.
- 1 box elbow noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cups pumpkin (or butternut squash), cubed
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, finely chopped
- 8 ounces fontina, grated
- 2.5 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup cooked bacon, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil and turn the oven on to 375F.
When the water is boiling, add the elbow noodles and cook for 5 minutes.
In a large dutch oven, heat oil.
Drain noodles and set aside.
When the oil is hot, saute the onion until golden brown.
Add in pumpkin and cook until it starts to break down a little.
Pour in the half and half and bring to a simmer.
Stir in the sage and stir the sauce often as it thickens.
The sauce will start to turn orange from the pumpkin, Reduce it until the it's thick and creamy but there are still chunks of pumpkin.
Fold the bacon into the sauce.
Add in the noodles and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.
Butter or oil a lasagna pan and transfer the mac n cheese to the pan.
Top with remaining cheese and place in the oven.
Bake until the cheese has melted and the top is browned, about 30-40 minutes.
For an extra special mac n cheese that's holiday worthy, caramelize two large onions and double the cheese. You won't regret the added calories!
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