November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I'm completely serious when I tell you that I still have those sugar pumpkins in my kitchen just waiting for me to make use of them.  And now that I'm no longer eating vegan (did I mention this?  I started November as a regular vegetarian again), it was clear that I had to indulge in the most decadant of dairy comfort foods: macaroni and cheese.

But what about pumpkin macaroni and cheese?  It's been done.  It's been in Gourmet, Better Homes and Gardens, the Food Network, a million food blogs, but not by me!  And surely that's a massive oversight.  I love pumpkin.  I love cheese.  Marrying the two together in a creamy, spicy autumn dish sounds like just the ticket to heaven.

And fat thighs.

So rather than try to make this dish healthy (because really, can you?  I think not), I just dropped down the serving size to reduce the temptation to overindulge.  This is a two serving recipe that you should be able to double if you're serving more than one or two.

Some notes on the recipe before we get started.  I only had vanilla soy milk in the house, so where I would normally use milk in the cheese sauce, I ended up using plain greek yogurt. I'm quite pleased with the results and will likely continue to use it in the future. I also only happened to have Four Cheese Mexican shredded, which I'd hesitate to use as my cheese base - opting for an American or Gruyere, something super melty, but this actually turned out fairly well once creamed with the yogurt and butter.

Now I left the house while roasting my pumpkin and remember, in a panic, two hours later that it was in the oven.  My pumpkin was a bit brown on the skin and the underside blackened on the surface, but the great part is that the skin peeled off instantly, as did the crusty edge, leaving a rich, flavorful well-roasted pumpkin interior.  Lesson learned: None.  Without proper ramifications, I will continue my spree of nearly burning down the house via the oven/stove.

 My last note is that I love adding a spicy kick to pretty much every savory dish.  My most frequently used spice is cayenne pepper.  Add this, or not.  I put it in both the cheese sauce and the crumb topping.  I highly recommend including, but I do recognize that cayenne in every single dish isn't for everyone.  I'm thinking next time that I might toss in some chipotle in adobo sauce to kick things up a notch as well. 

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

3/4 cup of roasted sugar pumpkin
1 cup of Ezekial 4:9 rotini (or other pasta)
1 cup of shredded cheese (use what you have or love)
2 Tbsp of plain greek yogurt
1 Tbsp salted butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 Tbsp of butter, diced
1/4 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

The first step is roasting the pumpkin.  I pretty much exclusively roast vegetables.  It is a slow cook method that caramelizes and brings out the richest flavors.  To do this I halved the sugar pumpkin, chopped off the stem, cleared out the seeds and lay it face down on an olive oil-greased pan. Place it in the oven until the flesh is tender, the edge caramelized (or go shopping and leave it in the oven for two hours until it's burnt and just scrape off the toasty parts).

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

The next step is cooking up the pasta.  I exclusively eat Ezekial 4:9 pastas, which are rich and dimensional in flavor with high protein content and wide nutritional profile.  This pasta cooks a bit quicker than your average pasta, so if you go with it, make sure to test for readiness after 6 minutes or so.  Once done, drain and set aside.

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

The cream sauce is quick and easy.  In a saucepan, toss in your garlic along with the cheese, butter and yogurt.  Cook on low and constantly stir until creamy.  Add pumpkin.  Once combined, toss in any spices just as you take it off the stove.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Fold sauce into the pasta.  Top with a combination of bread crumbs, salt and spice.  Then pop into the oven until the top is a golden brown and the sides are bubbling.  Eat.

Pumpkin Mac and CheesePumpkin Mac and Cheese

Bonus:  Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Using up all the parts, I threw my pumpkin seeds in the oven with some olive oil, salt and chilli powder.  I totally do not recommend using any oil.  I don't know why I did.  The wet pumpkin guts are enough to stick the seasoning to the seeds.

Pumpkin Seeds Pumpkin Seeds
One sugar pumpkin down!  One last pumpkin to go.

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