Fall is weird…
Sometimes Fall is warm. Sometimes Fall drives you outside and takes you on long, ambling walks. Sometimes Fall wants you to put on a sweater and spend the day at a pumpkin patch, or a corn maze, or an apple orchard, or a football field. Sometimes Fall hands you a big bowl of pumpkin ice cream and tells you that you sho’ better get your fair share before Winter comes a-knockin’.
Sometimes Fall is cold. Sometimes Fall strongly calls for a large dose of pumpkin coffee and a pair of fuzzy socks. Sometimes Fall barges in through your open window and makes you want to curl up under the covers and never, ever leave your bed. Sometimes Fall urges you to bake apple pie solely so you can warm your feet by the oven.
Sometimes Fall is lonely. Sometimes Fall strips the landscape and drives everyone indoors. Sometimes Fall is selfish and hogs all the sunshine and makes you walk home in pitch dark at 5:30. Sometimes Fall likes to remind you of people who aren’t there anymore.
But sometimes Fall is uniting. Sometimes Fall takes you out to your favorite bar for a pumpkin beer and Sunday night football. Sometimes Fall dresses you up in silly costumes and lets you eat candy with all your friends. Sometimes Fall reminds you how important family is and urges you to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle to spend some time with them…
And sometimes…Fall puts a good friend in your life who loves the crazy, mixed-up season of Fall just as much as you do…
…A friend who will take those long, ambling walks with you when it’s warm and buy you pumpkin coffees when it’s cold…
…A friend who will talk to you about football over poutine at your favorite bar…
…A friend who will come over when Fall makes you feel lonely and play your guitar and teach you songs…
But if you’re really lucky, Fall might just give you a friend who has discovered an epic, heart-attack-inducing, belt-loosening recipe for pumpkin mac and cheese…
And if you’re really really lucky, that friend will want to help you make it!
And it’s a good thing, too… because this recipe is hard work! It took the two of us, working full-time on it roughly three hours to complete! Luckily we were armed with an arsenal of good music and flavored vodka to keep us entertained and focused (…sort of)!
The result was highly intriguing. Decedent? Hellers yes! Pumpkiny? Yes sir! Cheesy? Sho’ was! And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing… my natural instinct is to say it needed mo’ salt (surprise surprise), but really, I just think it needed more oomph of any kind. Cheese and pumpkin and pasta and breadcrumbs all wrapped together can get kind of bland… if I were to do it again, I would go double or triple on the spices and make that shiz POP!
Don’t get me wrong… I nearly cried tears of bliss when I took the first bite from it straight out of the oven. But was it worth the three hours it took to make it? Given that time frame would I make it again? Hmmm, that’s up for debate. If I were making it by myself, I might have to give it some serious consideration… but for a lazy Saturday afternoon with a good friend, some good cocktails, and some good music? Nothing could be better.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese With Sage Breadcrumbs (From The Small Boston Kitchen)
- 1 – 2 1/2-3 lb. Sugar Pumpkin, scrubbed clean
- 6-7 whole cloves (I didn’t have these so I left them out)
- 3 pieces of whole wheat bread (I recommend getting a fresh loaf from the bakery on this one, with a similar consistency to french bread. Don’t use sliced bread from the Wonderbread aisle)
- 1 lb. dried pasta
- ½ Vidalia onion, diced (I used a whole one)
- 6 TBS + 2 TBS butter unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 TBS flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda
- 1 + ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1- 8 oz. log of goat cheese
- 1 TBS whole grain mustard
- 1 TBS + 1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
- A generous pinch nutmeg
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Olive Oil for drizzling
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut the pumpkin into six equal parts and scoop out the seeds. Pierce the insides of the pumpkin pieces with the cloves, salt generously and then lay onto a cookie sheet, flesh side down. Roast pumpkin until it is very soft, about 35-45 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin of the pumpkin and place the flesh into a blender or processor. Blend the pumpkin until smooth and velvety, and set the pumpkin puree aside.
- On a baking sheet, toast the three pieces of bread until they start to brown a bit. Set them aside to cool, then use a processor to pulse the bread crumbs. Mix in 1 tsp fresh sage and a pinch of nutmeg. Using your hands, combine 2 TBS of softened butter to the crumbs until they are evenly distributed. Season with salt and set aside.
- Heat a medium-sized sauce pot and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Add the diced onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook on medium heat until they start to lightly brown (about 15 minutes). Add the butter to the pot and once it has completely melted, gradually add the flour, stirring constantly. Let the butter-flour mixture heat for a minute or two and then remove the pan from the heat and gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly. Return the pan to medium heat and add two cups of the pumpkin puree, stir, then add the mustard, goat cheese, smoked Gouda and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Add the 1 TBS sage and cinnamon and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta until very al dente (about 5 minutes). Strain pasta and add to the cheese sauce, and pour into an oven-safe casserole dish. Top with remaining ½ cup of cheddar cheese and Sage Breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees until the breadcrumbs brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.