Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

The good part about having an unpopular blog is that my humble little space remains untainted by corporate offerings.  My soul is still my own, (although if I got offered bags of money to endorse pots and pans that are not All-Clad or Le Creuset) (the only two brands you should own), then I will probably sell a minor piece of it.  

About a month ago, one of my old Gramercy Tavern colleagues updated his facebook status to mention that Kerrygold is the only mainstream butter he saw that didn't seem to add "natural butter flavor."  

"Check labels" he warned.  

He's right.  That following day I checked EVERY other butter at the store and they all add natural butter flavoring to their butter.  WTF does that even mean?  Doesn't butter already taste like butter?

I'm very particular about what products I spend my clients' money on, my own paycheck on, and am pretty fussy over what I put in my body.  Quality over quantity, always.  If I didn't believe in Kerrygold, then they would receive no mention.

They're not paying me to say this, however they did send me 21 ounces of their new-to-the-market Skellig Cheddar (it's delicious) and a pound of butter to test out.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese it is.  Sometimes a girl needs her dairy-carbs and sometimes she needs them badly.  I did use whole wheat fusilli for taste and texture and I did technically add a vegetable, but I don't want anyone to catalog this as "healthy."  This is definitely a splurge.  

That's what's so great about being an arugulaholic: splurging is allowed.  Dairy-carbs hug the inner-angst, and then usually stay there.  That's how love-handles are made.  Science!

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Since Skellig is a sweet cheddar (think sweet cream, notes of butterscotch sweet), it melds really well with pumpkin. You can use canned pumpkin if you really want.  It's a canned product I don't mind, but of course fresh tastes better.  

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Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

INGREDIENTS: (makes 8-10 servings)

  • 1 small pie pumpkin
  • olive oil, for roasting
  • 16 ounces whole wheat fusilli
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 10½ ounces (3 cups) Kerrygold Skellig Cheddar Cheese, finely shredded

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds and place both halves cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Drizzle a little olive oil on each half and roast for 40-50 minutes, until skin is soft to touch. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until just tender, 6-7 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Using the same pot, heat butter until melted.  Add the minced garlic and stir to evenly coat garlic.  When you can smell the garlic, whisk in the flour, ½ teaspoon salt and white pepper and mix until smooth and thickened.  At this time, whisk in the remaining 2½ cups milk a little at a time, allowing your sauce to thicken in between additions. When all milk has been added and sauce is thickened, turn heat to very low.

At this point (depending on your speed), the pumpkins should be ready.  When done, use tongs to turn each side over and let cool slightly.  You should have 2 cups of flesh.  Add to blender with remaining ½ cup of milk, ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and blend on high until smooth. 

Stir the pumpkin puree into the milk mixture (aka béchamel sauce) as well as the 2 cups of shredded cheddar and pasta.  Mix until completely combined.

Pour everything into large baking dish of choice and smooth out with spatula.  Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top and bake at 400F oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is browning and cheese is bubbling.  Serve warm.

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