Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Pumpkin mac and cheese gets baked inside a pumpkin! This recipe is my take on the always fun dinner in a pumpkin. This post is sponsored by Horizon Organic.
A few weeks ago I posted on Instagram that my family had a little weekend getaway to the Santa Ynez Valley. On the way home we stopped at my favorite farm stand, Folded Hills Farmstead. The Farmstead is the most charming farm and shop with organic produce, local goods, and adorable animals. We picked a few beautiful pumpkins from the pumpkin patch and I have been so excited to cook with them.
I’ve always wanted to make dinner in a pumpkin. I wish I knew who came up with the idea, because it’s so fun. Most of the stuffed pumpkin recipes I’ve seen, however, are made with ground beef. I asked my friends on Instagram for ideas for stuffing my pumpkins. Mac and cheese was requested and I though it was an excellent idea for a vegetarian take on dinner in a pumpkin. I used one larger heirloom pumpkin that was about 5 pounds. I think in the future I would try stuffing kobocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, because the flesh is just so sweet and delicious. It’s so fun to serve dinner out of an edible pumpkin bowl.
Since we were baking our mac and cheese inside the pumpkin, it seemed fitting the mac and cheese be made with pumpkin puree. I love adding extra veggies either in whole or pureed form to our mac and cheese recipes. I’ve done pureed cauliflower and carrot, and baked in roasted Brussels sprouts. Sometimes I even wilt in some torn kale, which would be fantastic with this pumpkin mac and cheese. Using pumpkin puree in the base works well because it’s naturally creamy, so you don’t have to make a roux with butter and flour as is traditionally done with mac and cheese sauce. It’s also naturally orange, so you can make a completely dye-free meal. I used Horizon organic shredded cheddar, which is my kids’ favorite. I love that it’s white and organic.
These gorgeous pumpkins take about an hour to cook through, so I partially bake them while I make the mac and cheese and then continue baking after they are stuffed. Let’s just take a moment to admire that beautiful pumpkin.
The easy pumpkin mac and cheese gets mixed up on the stove top. It’s a good idea to taste it at this point and adjust the seasonings to taste. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, sage, or nutmeg can really enhance the flavor here. Thyme would be a delicious addition as well.
My kids’ favorite part of homemade mac and cheese is the crispy topping. For this autumn pumpkin mac and cheese some sage seemed the perfect compliment. I absolutely love sage with pumpkin. Have you ever had pumpkin ravioli with buttery sage sauce? It’s an utterly divine and decadent treat.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Baked in a Pumpkin
- 1 cinderella pumpkin or a few kobocha squash
- 1 lb. macaroni pasta (gluten-free if desired)
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
- 4 tablespoons favorite butter, divided
- 1 (6 oz.) bag Horizon organic shredded cheddar
- 1 cup favorite milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 6 sage leaves, sliced
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Cut the top quarter of the pumpkin off, as you would a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out all the flesh and seeds. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes. We want the pumpkin to be tender, but not falling apart. Reduce the temperature to 350 F.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente in salted water according to package instructions. Drain and add back into the pot. To the pot of pasta, add the pumpkin, 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, milk, mustard, nutmeg, and garlic. Stir to combine and melt the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Adjust any seasonings.
- Transfer the pumpkin mac and cheese to the inside of the roasted pumpkin (or a casserole dish if not using a pumpkin).
- To make the topping, melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add the sage and saute a couple of minutes. Add the panko and Parmesan and stir to coat with butter. Sprinkle the panko topping over the mac and cheese. Return the pumpkin to the oven and continue to bake until the topping has browned, about 20 minutes. Check halfway through to be sure the topping isn’t burning. If it is getting too brown, cover with foil.
Gluten Free Option: Use gluten-free pasta and breadcrumbs.
Vegan Option: Use Silk unsweetened plain milk, dairy-free butter, and omit the cheese. Add 1/3 cup nutritional yeast to the pasta mixture.