Baked Pumpkin Mac & Cheese With Sage
This mac and cheese is topped with a delicious aromatic browned-butter sage breadcrumb topping. The nutty flavor of the brown butter goes so well with the fresh sage, and the topping uses a combination of panko and regular breadcrumbs for the optimal texture.
And the pumpkin cheese sauce--just. SO. GOOD!! For all the pumpkin haters out there, the pumpkin flavor is subtle. It tastes like a warm fall slightly spiced version of the ultimate mac and cheese. I used three kinds of cheese in this recipe (cheddar, parm, and monterey jack)
I like to use fried sage leaves as a garnish. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat-- use enough oil so that it covers the bottom in a thin layer. Then fry sage leaves until crisp and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. You'll know they're done when the oil stops bubbling, it only takes about a minute!
- 6 servings
- Prep time: 45 Minutes|Cook time: 25 Minutes|Total time: 1 Hours 10 Minutes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook pasta as directed on package, but drain about 1 minute before full cook time. Set pasta aside.
Make Pumpkin Cheese Sauce:
- In a large saucepot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until it smells lightly nutty.
- Slowly pour in the milk while constantly whisking.
- Let the milk come to a simmer so it can thicken a bit. You can tell it’s the right consistency when it can coat the back of a wooden spoon without running down the spoon.
- Once the mixture is thickened, add the mustard, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, and crushed red pepper.
- Stir in the pumpkin until it is fully incorporated into the mixture.
- Remove from heat and add 2 cups cheddar, 1/2 cup parm, and 1/4 cup monterey jack. Mix until the cheese is fully melted.
- Combine the pasta and sauce in a large mixing bowl. Pour the pasta/cheese sauce into a 13x9 baking dish and top with remaining cheeses.
Make Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumb Topping:
- Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
- Add the chopped sage and cook until crispy.
- Stir and move pan constantly for about 2-3 minutes, or until the butter is lightly browned and develops a nutty aroma. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, plain breadcrumbs, and some salt (to taste). Then mix in the brown butter/sage combo.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the pasta evenly and then add a few whole sage leaves for garnish before putting it in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm.
- Make the browned butter in a light colored skillet if you have one. It's a lot easier to monitor the color in a white or light pan than a black nonstick pan. And you want to make sure the butter doesn't burn!