Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pumpkin and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

 It's that time of year where everything has turned pumpkin. Every corner you look it's pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, heck why not then turn a macaroni and cheese pumpkin too?  In the Cinderalla movie, turning back into a pumpkin was a bad thing.  For macaroni and cheese, however, it is a beautiful Fall comfort food. 

What inspired this dish, was a science experiment that was going on in my classroom where students test which substance will help to preserve a pumpkin better. So that means for two weeks, my classroom is filled with rotting pumpkin pieces. Oh the joys of my job! For this experiment, this means I had to carve a pumpkin into small chunks for each group. This left me with a half of a very large pumpkin. Not one to waste food, I took it home, and continued to carve it into small chunks and roasted it in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees seasoned with fresh thyme. It roasted up so easily! I highly recommend going to the trouble of roasting fresh pumpkin. (Ok, yea I can hear you laughing). Go to the trouble if you want and happen to have spare time on your hands (spare time? What's that?!)  I normally don't have a spare minute, so please feel free to use canned pumpkin. 

The great thing about macaroni and cheese is its versatility. I, mean, what doesn't go with cheese and pasta? One thing that definitely goes well is bacon. Bacon just makes things better. God bless bacon. The bacon helped to balance out the sweetness of the pumpkin fall flavors and added that much loved smokiness to the dish.  I also used and a combination of smoked gouda and cheddar cheese. The smoked gouda cheese gave a wonderful flavor, so if you can get a hold of some it's worth the splurge.

So although my classroom does not have lovely smells coming out of it, this macaroni and cheese filled up my kitchen with delicious Autumnal aromas. Oh and smells of bacon.

Pumpkin and Bacon Mac-n-Cheese
Print this recipe!
Adapted from Rachael Ray

Note:  I used fresh roasted pumpkin for this recipe but feel free to use the canned stuff. Trust me, I won't judge you.  I normally would too but I just so happen to have half of a pumpkin sitting around from a science experiment. (No, really I did). As for the bacon, I found the original recipe just needed a balance from the sweet, earthy spiciness from the pumpkin, honey, and other spices.  And bacon always makes things better right? I also used half gouda and half cheddar. The gouda gave it great flavor, but use whatever cheese you have it on hand. Overall, this macaroni and cheese got great reviews from my tastetesters and every noodle was devoured.

  • 1 lb. pasta rigatoni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2 cups roasted  pumpkin, or pumpkin puree
  • 6-7 strips bacon, crumbled
  • 2 1/2 cups cheese (gouda and cheddar)
  • couple pinche of cloves or allspice
  • pinch of cayenne pepper and nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.
2. Cook bacon according to package directions (I was lazy and did mine in the microwave!). Then on a cutting board, after the bacon has cooled, crumble the bacon into small pieces.
 3.  Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add beer.
4. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in honey
5. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings. 
6. Whisk in pumpkin puree then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

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