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Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese

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Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese includes a veggie (pumpkin!) and elevates an old-school flavor with unexpected spices and pancetta.

Yes, it’s candy season. (Check out “The All Month Long Candython” if you need ideas about what to do with the leftovers.) But we also need to ingest some things that are not coated in chocolate.

For a pre- or post-trick-or-treating dinner, how about Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese? This is mac and cheese, so everyone is going to like it. There’s even a chance they won’t know that you snuck in some vegetables(!) – that’s the pumpkin. Either way, there is enough cheese and crunchy, buttery crust in this mac and cheese that the veggie part isn’t going to matter. Your crowd will be pleased.

We added sage to Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese because it goes so well with pumpkin, not in a pumpkin spice kind of way (watch for November’s issue of The Buzz for our take on that), but in a savory, creamy, this-might-be-our-new-favorite-fall-recipe kind of way. Then we amped it up with pancetta, because what doesn’t taste better with bacon? A few unexpected and sneaky spices round it out – you don’t exactly taste the dry mustard, but there’s a little somethin’ somethin’ you know is darn good. And then we go old school with crackers (Ritz, preferably) and butter as a topper.

Serve Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese and you might just forget about the Kit Kats for dessert. Maybe. Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin and Sage Mac and Cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni
4 ounces pancetta, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
¼ cup flour
3 cups milk
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 ½ cups shredded gruyere 
24 buttery crackers (Ritz crackers are preferred)
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and coat a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add the macaroni. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al-dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until crispy, about 4 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and remove all but 1 teaspoon of the remaining fat from the skillet.

In the same skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the garlic and sage. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute, then slowly add the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth and thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin, dry mustard, paprika, pepper, and salt. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses and the cooked pancetta. Add the macaroni and the reserved pasta water to the skillet and stir to coat the pasta in sauce. 

Pour the macaroni into the prepared baking dish. Top with the crackers, dot with 2 tablespoons butter, and sprinkle with garlic salt. Bake for 20 minutes, until bubbly and browned.

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