recipe: pumpkin mac n’ cheese

I’m a huge fan of mac n’ cheese. It’s one of my comfort foods and I have probably about 10 recipes that I routinely enjoy making of it at different times of the year. After several people mentioned it in the past week I had a hankering for it. It’s also pumpkin season and I do love pumpkin so the potential to combine the two was definitely there. So after a quick trip to see what looked interesting at the shop, the trip down the aisles and a few text messages later and I had mushrooms, some great cheeses and a plan.

The Munster adds some stringiness to the mix, the peccerano romano a bit of saltiness both of which you need to really pull it together. With the spices and the brown sugar, it has that autumnal pumpkin pie type of complement without losing the savoriness of the dish, particularly with the extra depth the molasses in the brown sugar. The mushrooms add a nice woody, earthy back-note. And, of course, finishing in the cast iron is so traditional and adds that great crunchy texture to the lush pumpkin-cheese mixture. While it was baking the apartment just filled with the spice aroma and it was a pleasant surprise when it all came out considering we were making some of it up as we went along.

small yellow onion
shittake mushrooms
Pumpkin (14.5 oz can)
strained Greek plain yogurt
pumpkin spice (2:1:1:1:1:1 Cinnamon, Nutmeg, All Spice, Ginger, Paprika, sage)
brown sugar
whiskey (bourbon)
pecorino romano
bread crumbs
penne pasta (about 3/4 of a box)
two large stock pots
cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 375
Finely chop the onion and garlic
Clean and slice the Shittakes caps, reserve the stems (in a cheese cloth satchel)
Grate / dice all the cheeses (retain about 1/4 romano separate)
In one large stock pot sweat the onion and garlic in butter with a little salt and pepper
Add the mushroomss and some of the spice mixture with the onion and garlic
Cook the mushroom caps till soft but not totally cooked through tender
Add the pumpkin to the stock pot
Add a few tablespoons of yogurt to the stock pot (I determine how much by feel, it’s not an exact measurement, add more for creaminess but don’t add too much or you’ll thin out the pumpkin flavor)
Add 1-2 shot of bourbon to the stock pot, be careful not to flombee it!
Add the spice mixture and the brown sugar
Add the cheeses slowly to the stockpot to incorporate them into the pumpkin mix
Allow the sauce to simmer covered so the flavors come together
While the sauce is simmering boil salted water and the mushroom stems in a large stock pot
Add the pasta and cook a few minutes below the package instructions
Once the pasta is cooked, remove the mushroom stems and drain, but do not shake out, retain some of the pasta water
Put the pasta into the sauce and gently combine
in a lightly buttered skillet spoon the pasta and sauce mixture
put a light coating of bread crumbs and romano on top of the mixture
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned
Carefully remove the cast iron skillet from the oven and put on a rack to cool


About thedoormouse

I am I. That’s all that i am. my little mousehole in cyberspace of fiction, recipes, sacrasm, op-ed on music, sports, and other notations both grand and tiny:
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