Pumpkin mac and cheese
Originally from the famed Nashville, Tenn., Loveless Café, this decadent mac and cheese recipe has evolved through several adaptations. The pumpkin doesn’t overwhelm the cheeses; rather it adds a slightly sweet mellowness that may have you wondering if you’ll ever be satisfied with regular mac and cheese again. Though I generally eschew processed cheese products such as Velveeta (my mom’s choice for her killer mac and cheese) or the Cheez Whiz used here, there’s something about them that works exceptionally well for mac and cheese.
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese; it’s coated with a substance that keeps the shreds separate and prevents them from completely melting into a sauce.
An unusual Loveless Café Cookbook recommendation is to “Overcook your pasta. That way it absorbs more moisture before you put it in the sauce. Otherwise it will turn stiff and dry.”
- 2 lbs. cavitappi, elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
- 1/2 c. scallions, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, or more or less to taste
- 4 T. butter
- 3 T. flour
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 2 c. whole milk
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 3 c. pumpkin puree, either canned or roasted from fresh pumpkins
- 1/4 lb. shredded Monterey Jack
- 1 lb. shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 lb. shredded Swiss cheese, such as (natural) Gruyere or Emmentaler
- 1 15 oz. jar Cheez Whiz
- 1 c. grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the pasta until just PAST al dente. Drain and set aside.
Saute onions and garlic in the butter in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Cook for about 3 minutes or until onions and garlic are softened but not browned. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple minutes.
Heat the milk and cream in the microwave or another pan until warm, and whisk into the onion mixture. When the milk/cream is incorporated, add the cayenne and white pepper and mix well. Simmer over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, 5-10 minutes or until it coats a spoon. Add the pumpkin, combine thoroughly, and bring to a simmer.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheeses (except the Parmesan) a handful at a time, until the cheeses are melted. You may need to return the pan to the stove briefly to heat the mixture up. Stir in the Cheez Whiz and check for seasoning.
Pour into a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta and mix well.
Transfer to a large baking dish, cover and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s bubbling. Uncover, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and return to the oven until the Parmesan is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Serves 8 or more.