All you need is 30 minutes for the creamiest Pumpkin Mac and Cheese! Pumpkin purée melds seamlessly into the creamy cheese sauce, making it an irresistible year-round comfort dish.
I’ve said it before (see: my ice cream pie template), selecting a favorite recipe from my Secret Ingredient Cookbook feels a bit like choosing a favorite child – I just can’t do it! But within the Pastas chapter, this 30-Minute Pumpkin Mac and Cheese undoubtedly claims the top spot on my list of favorites.
Pumpkin, often underappreciated in savory dishes, seamlessly melds into the creamy cheese sauce, rendering it virtually undetectable. This dish isn’t just perfect for fall; it’s a year-round comfort food that sneakily incorporates veggies into your family’s diet while delivering that satisfying, cheesy goodness.
It’s bound to become a household favorite, offering a delightful twist on classic stovetop macaroni and cheese. So, grab those pasta shells and that forgotten pumpkin puree from the back of your cupboard, along with your favorite cheeses, for a nutritious, incredibly creamy pumpkin pasta.
And don’t miss my other twists on this classic with recipes for French Onion Mac and Cheese, Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese, and 30-Minute White Cheddar Mac and Cheese.
Why You’ll Love It
- Nutrient-packed. Pumpkin is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making this pumpkin pasta a nutritious choice.
- Creamy and delicious.
- Family-friendly. Even the pickiest eaters will enjoy this dish because the pumpkin flavor is so subtle, allowing the creamy cheese sauce to shine.
- Quick and easy. This recipe is straightforward and takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
- Pasta: When it comes to macaroni and cheese, pasta shells are a classic choice. Short pasta, such as bowtie, cavatappi or elbow macaroni, works best because of how well it holds onto the sauce.
- Milk: Whole milk contributes to the creamy texture of the sauce. If you prefer a lighter version, you can use 2% or even skim milk, which may result in a slightly less creamy sauce.
- Pumpkin puree: The (secret!) star of the show. It adds creaminess to the sauce and intensifies the dish’s classic color.
- Butter: The butter, along with the flour, is used to create a roux, which thickens the cheese sauce. You can use salted butter if that’s what you have on hand but adjust the added salt accordingly.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is best for a roux.
- Nutmeg: Ground nutmeg adds a warm and aromatic flavor to the dish, complementing the pumpkin.
- Shredded cheeses: I’ve chosen a blend of Gruyère and cheddar cheese for this recipe, but feel free to use your preferred cheese. Just make sure it’s one that melts well for that creamy goodness.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
All that separates you from a big ol’ bowl of cheesy deliciousness is 30 minutes and six simple steps.
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Prepare the pumpkin mixture. While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk and pumpkin puree. Warm the mixture until its hot but not boiling, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
- Make a roux. Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes light brown in color and has a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes.
- Add spices and pumpkin. Whisk in the nutmeg, then remove the pot from the heat and slowly whisk in the pumpkin mixture. It will thicken, then thin out gradually and become smooth as you continue cooking.
- Make it cheesy. Return the pot to medium heat and whisk in the shredded cheese, salt and pepper. Cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
- Combine pasta and sauce: Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, and gently stir until the pasta is evenly coated.
- Serve and enjoy!
Kelly’s Recipe Tips
- Prep Everything First: Before you start cooking, make sure you have all your ingredients measured and ready. This will help you avoid any last-minute scrambling and ensure a smoother cooking process.
- Grate Your Own Cheese: As a busy mom, I love kitchen shortcuts, but for the creamiest pumpkin mac and cheese, it’s worth the extra time to grate your cheese. Freshly grated cheese melts better and results in a creamier sauce.
- Master the Roux: When creating the roux (the flour and butter mixture), cook it for a few minutes until it reaches a light golden color. This step is crucial as it eliminates the raw flour taste and ensures the sauce thickens properly. Stir continuously to prevent burning and maintain a smooth texture in your pumpkin cheese sauce.
- Don’t Overcook the Pasta: Cook the pasta until it’s just al dente, as it will continue to cook when combined with the sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
To complement the earthy sweetness of pumpkin, opt for cheeses like Gruyère, sharp cheddar or Parmesan, which offer a balanced contrast in flavor and melt well.
The pumpkin flavor in this recipe is enhanced by ground nutmeg, which brings out its natural sweetness and earthy notes, creating a warm and comforting taste.
While mac and cheese can be frozen, the texture might become grainy when thawed, so it’s best to enjoy it fresh.
Achieving a smooth cheese sauce involves maintaining low to medium heat and continuously stirring while adding the cheese in gradually. Using freshly grated cheese can also help avoid graininess.
More Savory Pumpkin Recipes You’ll Love
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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the milk and pumpkin puree. Warm the mixture until it is hot but not boiling, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture becomes light brown in color and has a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in the nutmeg, then remove the pot from the heat and slowly whisk in the pumpkin mixture. It will thicken, then thin out gradually and become smooth as you continue whisking.
Return the pot to medium heat and whisk in the Gruyère cheese, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
Stir the pasta into the sauce until combined and serve.
- For the creamiest pumpkin mac and cheese, it’s worth the extra time to grate your cheese. Freshly grated cheese melts better and results in a creamier sauce.
- Cook the pasta until it’s just al dente, as it will continue to cook when combined with the sauce.
- Leftover pumpkin mac and cheese should be cooled to room temp and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. It can be reheated either in the microwave, oven or on the stovetop, with occasional stirring and a splash of milk if needed to maintain creaminess.
- ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!
Calories: 875kcal, Carbohydrates: 76g, Protein: 37g, Fat: 47g, Saturated Fat: 28g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 139mg, Sodium: 803mg, Potassium: 549mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 12463IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 877mg, Iron: 3mg