Pumpkin Thyme Infused Mac and Cheese

‘Tis the season for pumpkins, pumpkins and more pumpkins.  Last weekend my friends and I had an impromptu dinner party inspired by this infamous little Cucurbitaceae (for all you non-botanists, that’s the scientific classification for pumpkins, gourds and melons).  Among the dishes served were pumpkin hummus, green beans with roasted pumpkin seeds and — the pièce de résistance — pumpkin thyme mac and cheese.  It was so good that I made it again three days later (shhhh, don’t tell my guilty conscience).  I know what you’re thinking right now… this sounds a little unusual… but if you’re as intrigued as I was, then trust me, you won’t regret taking your taste buds on this little adventure.  So here is it — a daring take on the all-American classic.

Pumpkin Thyme Infused Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1 lb dry fusilli pasta
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus a little more for the breadcrumbs)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced thyme
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1/2 cup white sharp cheddar, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
lightly buttered and toasted panko breadcrumbs

Place milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a saucepan over medium heat and stir together. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil add a large pinch of salt and then the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in a separate saucepan. Add flour and whisk together. Allow mixture to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in thyme.

Whisk pumpkin-milk mixture into flour mixture until fully incorporated. Allow mixture to simmer over low heat until thick and creamy, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Toss shredded cheese together with lemon juice (this helps prevent the cheese from becoming stringy). Stir cheese into the pumpkin sauce and stir until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over pasta and garnish with toasted panko breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 5 servings

Credit for the original version of this recipe should be given to the wonderful blog, Spoon Fork Bacon.

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