As the crisp air of fall starts to creep in, so do our cravings for comforting dishes that warm the soul. Autumn ushers in the season of hot soups, cozy comfort foods, and everything pumpkin-spiced. With the hustle and bustle of back-to-school activities and the approaching holidays, we’re all in need of quick and satisfying weeknight meals that don’t leave us with a pile of dirty dishes. That’s where this recipe for one-pot pumpkin mac and cheese from Epicurious swoops in to save the day! Pumpkin is a fall superstar, often taking the lead in pies, cakes, and desserts. But did you know that this versatile ingredient can work wonders in savory dishes too? Our pumpkin mac and cheese showcases the earthy richness, subtle sweetness, and velvety texture of canned pumpkin. Plus, we’re ditching the traditional roux, making this recipe not only mouthwatering but also hassle-free, as the pasta cooks right in the same pan as the sauce. So, let’s dive into the details and create a fall masterpiece in just one pot.
- 14 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (divided into 3-4 cups)
- 12 oz. Monterey Jack, coarsely grated (approximately 3 cups)
- 1 lb. lumache (snail shells) or any medium shell pasta
- 1 can (15 oz.) of unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1 can (12 oz.) of evaporated milk
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped thyme, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 2½ teaspoons of Diamond Crystal or 1½ teaspoons of Morton kosher salt, with extra for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F, and place a rack in the upper third. In a large bowl, combine 12 oz. of coarsely grated Monterey Jack and 8 oz. of Gruyère, which is also coarsely grated. Use your hands to toss them together until they are evenly coated with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Set this cheesy mixture aside.
- Take a large, high-sided ovenproof skillet, rondeau, or a short pot with a capacity of 14 cups or more. If none of these are available, a large Dutch oven will do the trick. Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium-high heat in the chosen vessel. Add 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped thyme, and ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook while stirring until they become fragrant, which should take about 2 minutes.
- Pour in 4½ cups of water and bring it to a simmer. Add 1 lb. of lumache or any medium shell pasta and cook while stirring frequently to prevent sticking. You want the pasta to absorb about two-thirds of the liquid and become very al dente. This should take around 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in 1 can (12 oz.) of evaporated milk, 2½ teaspoons of Diamond Crystal or 1½ teaspoons of Morton kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg into the pasta. Begin adding the cheese mixture a handful at a time, ensuring it’s mostly melted before each new addition. Once the cheese is well incorporated, remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 can (15 oz.) of unsweetened pumpkin purée. Taste and season with more salt if necessary. If you used a Dutch oven, transfer the pasta to an ovenproof baking dish.
- Top your mac and cheese with the remaining 6 oz. of Gruyère, which is coarsely grated. Tightly cover it with foil and bake it for 20 minutes. Now, preheat your broiler. Remove the foil and broil the mac and cheese just until the top is perfectly browned. This should take 2-6 minutes, depending on your broiler. Keep a close eye to prevent burning. Once done, let it cool slightly and then garnish with thyme leaves.
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