Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pumpkin and Gouda Mac & Cheese

Yes, I am aware that this is a cold weather dish and since I'm in Texas, obviously it's not cold this time of year. But, I bookmarked it sometime in January when my oven was out of commission and vowed to make it once I had a working one again. So here it is!

I actually don't think mac and cheese and pumpkin have to be cold weather items. Though I'd probably not make hot soup this time of year, mac and cheese is an item I would happily eat year round. And pumpkin, too!

This dish was shared on Cooking Whims and was really delicious. It doesn't have a strong pumpkin flavor so don't hesitate to make it if you aren't a big pumpkin fan. Jason knew there was a flavor in it he wasn't familiar with but had no idea it was pumpkin until I told him. I think it makes the dish really creamy and rich in texture to have the canned pumpkin integrated throughout the cheese. I'm a fan of gouda anyways and it works well with the spinach and pumpkin flavors.

Sausage is already a difficult food for me to handle so I did not slice it, as suggested with the recipe, but instead removed it from the casings and crumbled it as it browned. I also used 3 links instead of 2 and Jason seemed pleased there was meat in every forkful. You could always leave the sausage out if you want it to be a side dish instead of main course.

Pumpkin and Gouda Mac & Cheese
3/4 of a 14.5 oz box of elbow macaroni (about 10 oz)
2 links of sausage (turkey, chicken, meat, or vegetarian) - I used 3 chicken sausage links
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
6 oz Gouda cheese, grated
1 (5-6 oz) bag baby spinach
Sprinkle of dried mustard
Sprinkle of nutmeg
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for topping
Panko crumbs for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

Slice, or crumble, and cook the sausage; set aside.

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil or cooking spray. Cook the onions over medium heat until browned and soft (4-5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the pumpkin and the milk and stir to combine. Continue to stir the pumpkin and milk so the mixture thickens. Add the Gouda cheese and stir to melt. Season the sauce with a dash each of mustard, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour the pumpkin sauce overtop. Stir to coat. Stir in sausage. Tear the baby spinach leaves and add to the mixture, stirring to wilt the spinach. Taste the pasta and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and/or pepper if needed. I added a good amount of salt and pepper at this stage.

Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and transfer the mac & cheese to the dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss some Panko breadcrumbs on top. Spritz a few spritzes of cooking spray on the Panko and then pop it in the oven (uncovered) for 20 minutes until the top is browned.

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