IT SEEMS AS IF NOW, MORE THAN EVER, PUMPKIN FLAVORED ANYTHING IS ACCEPTABLE. AND WHILE THE PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE IS MY NEMESIS, BECAUSE I LIKE COFFEE FLAVORED COFFEE, I CAN UNDERSTAND IT’S APPEAL. I TRULY BELIEVE THE PUMPKIN PHENOMENON HAS ALOT MORE TO IT THAN THE ACTUAL FLAVORS OF CINNAMON, NUTMEG, CLOVES, ETC, ETC. WHEN WE TASTE THESE FLAVORS, THERE IS SOME DEGREE OF NOSTALGIA THAT COMES ALONG WITH IT. IT’S AS THOUGH THE LEAVES WON’T START CHANGING, THE JACK O’ LANTERNS WON’T GET CARVED AND THE HOODIES WON’T LEAVE THE CLOSET IF THE PUMPKIN SPICED EVERYTHING’S AREN’T IN STORES. AND FOR THOSE REASONS I AM NOT MAD AT THIS WHOLE CRAZY SCENE, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE HALLOWEEN IS MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR. BUT ANYWAYS, BACK TO THE FOOD…
PUMPKINS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, ARE FRUITS. AND THERE ARE MANY VARIETIES, BOTH EDIBLE AND INEDIBLE BUT FOR THIS RECIPE WE USE THE SMALL “SUGAR PUMPKIN” BECAUSE OF NOT ONLY IS THE FLESH EDIBLE, BUT THE SKIN AS WELL. THEY ARE A PART OF THE WINTER SQUASH FAMILY, ALONG WITH BUTTERNUT, HONEYNUT, DELICATA AND ACORN SQUASHES. AND THESE ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES, NEXT TIME YOU GO TO THE FARMERS MARKET IN LATE SEPTEMBER - EARLY OCTOBER, ASK THE FARMERS WHAT VARIETIES THEY HAVE ON HAND BECAUSE YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED HOW MANY ARE AVAILABLE. PUMPKINS ARE GREAT SOURCES OF VITAMIN A AND BETA CAROTENE, AND BECAUSE THEY HAVE MILD FLAVOR, THINK OF THEM AS A BLANK CANVAS OR IN THE CASE OF THIS RECIPE, AN EDIBLE BOWL TO PUT MAC AND CHEESE IN!
STUFFED PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE
1 Sugar Pumpkin
1 lb. Pasta, shells preferred
1 lb. Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 lb. Gruyere, shredded
16 oz. Heavy Cream
8 oz. Canned Unsweetened Pumpkin Puree
Salt, to taste and for pasta water
Caramelized Onions (recipe below)
Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below)
Crumbled Bacon would be crazy good with this!
Preheat oven to 350*
Cut out top of pumpkin and scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds. Rinse seeds and reserve of making toasted seeds.
Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle salt inside the pumpkin. Place top of pumpkin back on and wrap stem with foil. Put on a sheet pan and place in oven for about 45 minutes or until a fork can pierce flesh.
While the pumpkin cooks, cook pasta in very well salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.
Combine heavy cream and pumpkin puree in a large skillet. Bring to a low boil and reduce for about 2-3 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the shredded cheeses. Add the remaining cheese a handful at a time, stirring until the all the cheese is melted and incorporated. Add the cooked pasta, stirring to combine until the sauce coats all of the pasta. If using caramelized onion, add it at this time and stir in.
Shut off the heat, spoon the mac and cheese into the pumpkin, top with the reserved shredded cheese and place back in the oven to melt the cheese or place under the broiler. Remove, let cool for 5-10 minutes to allow for easier slicing. Garnish with spiced seeds and chives.
Cook one thin sliced onion with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt over very low heat, until caramelized to your liking. Deglaze with water or beer if the onions start to get dry.
Spiced Roasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds):
After rinsing seeds, place in a small pot of well salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Toss with a little olive oil, pinch of salt and spices of your choice, such as Garam Masala or Chili Powder. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast in oven until crisp.