Pumpkin: The Fall Ingredient You Need To Add To Your Mac And Cheese

Making homemade pumpkin puree
Making homemade pumpkin puree - HannaTor/Shutterstock

When you think about eating pumpkin, the first foods that come to mind are probably sweet: pumpkin pie, muffins, and, of course, pumpkin spice lattes. However, this versatile gourd can do much more than make dessert. Pumpkin is really only sweet when you add sugar, so it's just as at home in savory dishes as other squashes like butternut and acorn. It's perfect for rounding out savory soups and sauces, layering into lasagna, and spicing up in a curry. Perhaps one of the easiest -- and most tasty -- ways to use it is in macaroni and cheese. Its earthy, mild flavor is a fantastic match for sharp cheddar. Plus, you don't need a special recipe to make pumpkin mac and cheese.

If you have an extra can of unsweetened pumpkin puree hanging around in your pantry, you don't have to wait for the urge to bake a pie to strike before using it. Canned pumpkin combined with a few herbs and spices can elevate a regular pot of macaroni and cheese into something extra gourmet that's creamy, filling, and perfect for a cold night.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Adapt A Regular Macaroni And Cheese Recipe

Vegan pasta with pumpkin cheese
Vegan pasta with pumpkin cheese - MagdaZarebska/Shutterstock

Canned pumpkin can add a lot of moisture and tenderness to a dish while cutting down on extra fat. It works great when used in a cake mix instead of oil, for example, or you can use pumpkin as a secret ingredient in chili to add an earthy sweetness. In the case of pumpkin macaroni and cheese, this ingredient can even replace some of the cheese, which will lighten up the recipe.

If you're adapting a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, avoid making a common mistake with canned pumpkin: Since pumpkin puree has some extra moisture, you can cut back on the milk or cream. The best time to add pumpkin to homemade macaroni and cheese is when making the creamy base sauce. After your roux is ready, use a little less milk or cream to make the sauce, which should be pretty thick. Then, use ½ to ¾ of the amount of shredded cheese you typically would, and add about a cup of pumpkin for every ½ pound of pasta in your recipe.

Mix everything and give it a taste before combining the sauce with the macaroni. If it's not cheesy enough, add a little more shredded cheese. Ideally, you'll get a sauce that's about the same consistency as your regular mac and cheese sauce -- but silkier and bright orange.

Experiment With Pumpkin Macaroni And Cheese

cut mini pumpkins
cut mini pumpkins - Studio Barcelona/Shutterstock

If you're skeptical about how macaroni and cheese will taste with pumpkin, try making a test bowl first. Make your regular macaroni and cheese recipe, scoop out a small portion from the batch before you put it in the oven, and mix it with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree. Bake the pumpkin-infused macaroni in an ovenproof ramekin for a few minutes until it bubbles and taste it. If you like what the pumpkin brings to the recipe, you can infuse the rest of your batch by adding the rest of the can of pumpkin. We recommend using pumpkin-friendly spices, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, and sage, to enhance the dish's autumnal flavor.

You can also boost the flavor of boxed macaroni and cheese by adding pumpkin. This is a great way to use up a small amount of pumpkin left in the can after making a pumpkin pie smoothie or other recipes that only call for a small amount. For boxed mac, scale the butter and milk down by about a tablespoon and then replace that moisture with pumpkin puree. Mix everything, add a pinch of paprika or cayenne, and dig in. Once you get a taste for pumpkin in your mac and cheese, we think you'll always keep a can of pumpkin puree handy all year round.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.