Not sure how it happened, but it’s here. And that, my friends, means that the holidays are just around the corner. You know, the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?! Well, it can be pretty wonderful for sure, but it’s also wildly busy.
So, it’s time to bring in the big guns – some easy dishes that everyone likes, but are worthy of this time of year to fill in the gaps in between the various holidays.
We tend to put all of our effort into our holiday entertaining – but it’s great to have a handful of seasonal weeknight meals that pile on the flavor and are so satisfying, but also a little extra special.
This dish is just that! Pair it with your favorite salad and it’s magic.
Ultimate Fall Mac-n-Cheese
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Several sprigs of fresh rosemary (keep a couple separate)
6 cloves of garlic, smashed well and skins removed
Pinch of chili flake
1 15 oz. can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c. whole milk or half-n-half
2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese (or other well-melting cheese of your choice – see note)
½ c. parmigiano-reggiano + another ¼ cup to sprinkle on top
¼ tsp. Nutmeg
1 lb. pasta of choice
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- In a large bowl, add grated cheeses and set aside.
- In a saucepan, add the butter, rosemary sprigs (reserving 1 or 2 sprigs for later) and smashed garlic and cook over medium-low heat until the butter begins to brown (brown bits will settle to the bottom of the pan) and smell deliciously nutty. *A word of caution here – it is a quick slippery slope from browned butter to black butter – so be sure to move quickly once you’ve reached the browned butter.
- Remove and set aside the rosemary and garlic (you can discard the rosemary).
- Add the pumpkin puree and the milk and whisk until well combined.
- Add the bay leaf and pinch of chili flakes, and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Once it has reached a boil, add back the garlic and your remaining fresh rosemary sprigs, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Then, remove from the heat and let steep. When ready to use, remove the bay leaf (I highly recommend leaving in the garlic and rosemary for maximum flavor in the finished dish!).
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season it generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook until it is very al dente (when bitten into, the pasta should be slightly underdone in the center), as it will continue cooking in the oven.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the cheese. Then immediately pour the pumpkin-milk mixture over the pasta and season it with the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Pour everything into a 9×13 baking dish and pop it into the oven for about 7 minutes or until golden brown on top.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Afraid to brown butter? Don’t be! It’s not hard, I promise. Just remember that when you add a cold liquid (milk, in this case), it will stop the cooking process. So, in this case, if you’re afraid it’s going to go past browned and onto black, just add the milk to buy yourself some time. Then you can remove the garlic and rosemary, add the pumpkin, and pick up where you left off in the recipe 😉
- Gluten free? Use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- What are my well-melting cheese options? Gruyere, Fontina or a Sharp Cheddar are my recommendations. Oh, and don’t be afraid to use a combination!
- Want a dairy alternative? Use canned coconut milk for the sauce and substitute your favorite vegan cheese.
Hello, I’m Natalie! I’m a professionally-trained chef and culinary instructor living in Ann Arbor. A career change, a trip through culinary school 20 years ago, and being a lifelong Julia Child enthusiast has led me to a career doing my very favorite thing: making food and cooking approachable to home cooks of all ages!
My passion for creating great food experiences and getting people excited about learning and having fun in the kitchen is always at the heart of what I do. I teach virtual adult and family cooking classes through Ann Arbor Rec & Ed, as well as my own private cooking classes and corporate events at NatalieMarbleCooks.com. You can find me on social media at @NatalieMarbleCooks and can sign up for my bi-weekly email newsletter here, where I share family-friendly recipes, tips & tricks, new class information, and hopefully a little inspiration!