This recipe is perfect for the entire family and is incredibly easy to make, which is great for those busy weeknights. Everyone will definitely leave the dinner table with clean plate after this meal. While everyone will be talking about how tasty this dinner is, you will be thinking about all the nutrition and benefits. Pumpkin is high in Vitamin A which plays an important role in potentially reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancer and heart disease. Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber (along with the whole wheat pasta) which helps to support a healthy digestive system.
Try out this recipe and let us know what you think!
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, Serves 6-8
13.75 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 can (15 ounces) of pumpkin puree
2 red peppers, roasted and finely chopped
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh thyme leaves for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and gather all ingredients and equipment needed. Cook the penne according to the package directions. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Melt butter then add flour, forming a roux. Add milk and bring to a boil then down to a slow simmer, milk will begin to thicken (around 5 minutes). Stir occasionally to avoid milk from burning on the sides and bottom. Once the sauce has thickened, reduce heat to low.
Mix in the thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and pumpkin puree until well incorporated. Stir in ½ cup of mozzarella and ½ cup of cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat. Stir in the roasted red peppers and cooked penne pasta. In a greased 9×13 baking dish, add the pasta and sauce. Top with all of the remaining cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves if desired.
Shred your own cheese if you have time. Packaged pre-shredded cheese can contain added ingredients to prevent it from sticking together or picking up extra moisture. When you try to melt this type of cheese in your sauce, it can often turn lumpy or stringy. Instead, grab a few little kitchen helpers and shred your own cheese.
Roast red peppers ahead of time or buy them pre-roasted. I personally love roasting my own peppers because it’s very easy and can be done days in advance. If you have a gas stove, simply place your pepper over a low-medium flame until all sides have been charred. Then remove the pepper from the stove and place in a bowl and cover. This allows the pepper to steam and the skin to separate. Peel off the charred skin and proceed to cut. You can also roast peppers in the oven at 450 degrees until skins have charred (about 30 to 40 minutes). Most grocery stores have roasted red peppers in a jar or near the deli as well. Assemble ahead of time.
This entire meal can be made ahead of time. Just proceed to the final step and cover the assembled dish then place in the refrigerator and bake when you are ready to eat.