Makeover Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Casserole
This delicious Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe got a little bit of a makeover. It's loaded with healthy pumpkin and kale but is still the creamy and delicious carbs you love.
Pumpkin mac and cheese ? Pumpkin mac and cheese ? cha cha cha ? Pumpkin mac and cheese.
Sing it with me, my friends! Trust me, this casserole is worth singing about.
I've given my mac and cheese recipe a little makeover. Don't worry, it's not such a dramatic makeover that you won't recognize it. Rather than switching everything up (read: sacrilegious!) I've simply snuck a few healthy things into the mix.
This is all about keeping real. You get all the cheese and carbs PLUS some healthy veggies. It's a total win for this comfort food season.
A few days ago, when I shared that Indian Meatball Curry recipe with you, I said I was thinking about doing The Whole30 Program again. Now here I am, handing you a plate of pumpkin mac and cheese. Clearly, I haven't quite committed yet.
This time of year I start craving heavier foods. Pasta, casseroles, braised meats, and chili are all on my must eat list. I don't know if it's my subconscious wanting to turn on the oven to warm up the house, or some genetic leftover from our primitive days where we needed to bulk up to survive the cold winter. Every year though, it's the same. Does it happen to you, too?
Rather than fight it, I've decided (at least for today) to roll with it and simply sneak in some healthy ingredients. Normally, pasta is not on my healthy list – unless we're talking about Chickapea Pasta, that's a different love story.
See that cheese sauce right there? Half of that is healthy pumpkin, but you wouldn't know it. Pumpkin is full of Vitamin A, E, and C, as well as a good source of iron, and fiber. It's also super low on the calorie scale so you get twice the sauce with half the calories.
I'm not going to sit here and claim that cheese sauce is health food, but it's a heck of a lot better for you when it's loaded with pumpkin.
And, since pureed pumpkin is naturally creamy, the cheese sauce becomes even more decadent. Don't believe me? Have a look for yourself. Doesn't that look amazing? ?
Makeover Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
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- 1 lb. macaroni, gluten-free, if needed – I recommend using Chickapea Pasta
- ½ lb. thick-cut bacon, sliced into ½ inch pieces
- 1 large onion, minced
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 1 teaspoon crumbled sage
- 1 cup pasta water
- ¼ cup panko, gluten-free, if needed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, gluten-free, if needed
- 2 cups milk of choice
- 1 cup each: grated sharp cheddar and grated mozzarella, avoid using pre-grated cheeses
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 15 ounce can of pureed pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Put a large pot of salted water on high heat. When it comes to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Remove 2 cups of the pasta water from the pot then drain the pasta. Add it back into the pot and set it aside. (Don't overcook the pasta as it will continue to cook in the oven.)1 lb. macaroni
- While the water is heating/ pasta cooking, prepare the rest of recipe. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crispy then remove it from the pan. Add the onion to the pan and let it cook until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the kale and sage and let the kale wilt. Set the pan aside.½ lb. thick-cut bacon, 1 large onion, 3 cups chopped kale, 1 teaspoon crumbled sage
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Add the milk all at once and bring it to a boil. When it thickens, add the cheeses, Dijon mustard, and sea salt and whisk until the cheese melts. Stir in the pumpkin and heat through.4 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 cups milk of choice, 1 cup each: grated sharp cheddar and grated mozzarella, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 15 ounce can of pureed pumpkin
- Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and add the bacon and onion/ kale to the pot. Stir the pot well and add as much pasta water as you need to loosen the pasta – I normally add about a cup.1 cup pasta water
- Transfer the mac and cheese to a 13-inch casserole dish, sprinkle the top with panko and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the sides are bubbling and the top starts to brown.¼ cup panko
This recipe is part of our Healthy Super Bowl Recipes series.