Twist on a fall classic: pumpkin mac ‘n cheese

Since I stocked up on pure pumpkin a few weeks ago at the grocery store, I’ve been looking to make good use of it. I did use a can to make some overnight oats, but I was itching to try pumpkin in a savory dish. So, after taking to the internets, I stumbled upon one of my favorite foodie running blogs, The Runner’s Kitchen, and a pumpkin mac ‘n cheese recipe. Yum!

I’m not going to lie – the thought of adding cottage cheese into the recipe scared me. I’d only ever tried cottage cheese once or twice in high school and college, trying to force it down because all the health conscious girls I knew would guzzle it with fruit and boast at how awesome it was. After trying it, I was convinced they were lying not only to me, but also themselves. However, I know that my palate has changed quite a bit in the past few years, so I was willing to give it another try. I also assumed it’d be barely noticable in a dish filled with cheese and pumpkin. I was right! It also called for a small amount of mustard, which my fiancé doesn’t eat. His condiment consumption involves ketchup (ocassionally) and hot sauce; that’s it. I toyed with the idea of using it or not, and eventually I did use it (see honey, you didn’t even notice!).

So despite my reservations, I forged ahead with the recipe and in the end it turned out deliciously. I have to say, though, it’s pumpkin mac ‘n cheese – not pumpkin pie mac ‘n cheese. I think for whatever reason when I first took a bite, I was expecting that cinnamon and nutmeg taste that is synonmous with pumpkin in the fall (even though neither was an ingredient – duh!). I later came to realize the pumpkin is really there to make the dish creamy and gooey in a healthy way, without adding a ton of cream, butter, and cheese – it worked. I definitely recommend this dish to all the pumpkin fiends out there. Plus, this recipe makes 8 servings, so my fiancé and I have lunch for at least two days on top of the dinner!

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese
– Serves 8 –

1 lb whole wheat pasta
15oz canned pumpkin
2 cups skim milk
6oz reduced fat cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, shredded
1 tsp salt
1tsp mustard
black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tb whole wheat bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray
2. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until “al dente” or about 8 minutes
3. In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin and milk until just about simmering
4. Remove from heat and add 2Tb parmigiano-reggiano, 6oz cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard – combine until sauce is smooth and melted
5. In a large bowl, combine cheese sauce and pasta then transfer to the baking pan
6. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, bread crumbs, and 2Tb parmigiano-reggiano, sprinkle crumb topping on top of macaroni
7. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes (until top is brown and crispy)

Nutrition: about 325 calories, 8.5 grams of fiber, 18 grams of protein per serving