Baked Pumpkin Mac & Cheese With Sage

Butter and Thyme
by Butter and Thyme
6 servings
1 hr 10 min

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!

Baked Pumpkin Mac & Cheese With Sage
Recipe details
  • 6  servings
  • Prep time: 45 Minutes Cook time: 25 Minutes Total time: 1 hr 10 min
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  • 1 lb pasta shells
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup monterey jack, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage + whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

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!