Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Recipe

by Eat Well with Lex

Pumpkin mac and cheese is a luscious creamy mix of pasta, melty cheeses, and pumpkin puree, enhanced with warm spices for the ultimate healthy comfort food. Enjoy this one pot recipe as a side dish or vegetarian meal.

Looking for more delicious pumpkin recipes this fall season? Try my Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pumpkin Donut Holes, and Easy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

A bowl of creamy pumpkin mac and cheese garnished with parmesan cheese

Everyone is used to sweet pumpkin recipes like lattes, muffins, and cookies. But have you ever tried adding pumpkin to a savory dish?

You may be wondering, “Can you make mac and cheese with pumpkin?” The answer is a resounding, “YES!” I get it; pumpkin spice mac and cheese sounds like a wild concept. But pumpkin, just like other squashes, pairs well with cheese. It makes it creamier, adds a subtle sweetness that enhances classic mac and cheese, and makes your macaroni and cheese a bit healthier too!

Why This is the Best Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Quick and Easy: Pumpkin puree mac and cheese is easy to whip up in just 30 minutes for an easy lunch or weeknight dinner. This simple stovetop recipe doesn’t require heating up an oven.
  • Kid Friendly: Little ones love macaroni and cheese but they may not be as enthusiastic about eating fruits and veggies. This recipe is a great way to sneak some nutrients into their next meal.
  • Healthy: This recipe swaps heavy cream for coconut milk and includes real pumpkin so you have fewer calories and added vitamins, fiber, and iron.
A stovetop skillet filled with the creamy pumpkin mac and cheese mixture.

Ingredients

  • Mezzi rigatoni: This ridged tube-shaped pasta holds the pumpkin cheese sauce well. But you can use your preferred pasta.
  • Pumpkin puree:
  • Unsweetened coconut milk: or heavy cream
  • Cheese: You could make pumpkin mac and cheese using just shredded sharp cheddar cheese but the parmesan cheese adds dimension. It’s savory, salty, and intensely cheesy.
  • Unsalted butter: Make sure you use butter without salt so you control the amount of sodium in this dish.
  • Aromatics: Saute shallots, fresh rosemary, sage leaves, a bay leaf, and garlic cloves for a delicious flavor base.
  • Seasoning: I use a warm spice blend of dried thyme, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground black pepper, and salt.
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese: for garnish
layout of all Ingredients for pumpkin mac and cheese, including pumpkin puree, fresh herbs, and shredded cheese.

How to Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Cook Pasta

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the instructions until it’s al dente. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooked pasta water.

Saute Aromatics

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the shallot,  bay leaf, rosemary and sage. Allow the herbs to simmer in the butter until fragrant then add the garlic. Stir and saute for about 1 minute. The fresh herbs will infuse the butter with their flavors. Make sure to not burn the herbs and spices. Reduce the heat if you notice the butter and herbs are starting to burn.

Fresh sage, thyme, and parsley, ingredients for stovetop pumpkin mac and cheese.

Prepare Pumpkin Cheese Sauce

Add the pumpkin puree and give it a good stir. Then, add the coconut milk, and all the spices (thyme, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper). Stir continuously until the mixture is heated through, well combined and smooth. Reduce the heat and bring the mixture to a low simmer (not a rapid boil) for about 2 minutes. Make sure to continuously stir.

Remove the sage leaves, bay leaf, and rosemary sprig and discard. Add the cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese to the mixture. Stir until the cheeses are fully melted and the sauce is smooth.

Combine Pasta & Sauce

Combine the pasta and sauce: Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce until it is well incorporated and evenly coated.

Serve and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

creamy stovetop pumpkin mac and cheese. step-by-step instructions for pumpkin mac and cheese

Pro Tips

  • Make sure you grab pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin puree is 100% pure pumpkin with no added sugar or additives. The two flavors are completely different.
  • Avoid mushy, overcooked pasta by cooking just to al dente. The noodles will continue to cook when combined with the cheese sauce.
  • Remember to reserve some pasta water when you drain the noodles. That starchy liquid may come in handy if your sauce is too thick.

Recipe Variations

  • Pasta: You can swap the rigatoni for rotini, fusilli, cavatappi, penne, or macaroni instead.
  • Cheese: Although I love the parmesan and sharp cheddar combo, you can use mozzarella, gouda, or Monterey jack cheese instead.
  • Pumpkin Bacon Mac and Cheese: If you want to indulge a bit, toss in some cooked bacon bits for a salty, savory pop of flavor.
  • Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese: Grease the baking dish and add the pumpkin macaroni and cheese to it. Sprinkle the dish with parmesan cheese and add it to an oven preheated to 400˚F for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has slightly browned.

Storing Leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat.

Can Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Be Made Ahead?

Yes. Once it cools down, store it in the fridge and reheat it within 3 days.

bowl of freshly prepared pumpkin mac and cheese.

Common Questions

What cheese goes well with pumpkin?

Sharp cheddar and parmesan are two cheeses that complete pumpkin. Sharp or aged cheddar cheese can provide a nice contrast to the sweet and creamy nature of pumpkin. Parmesan cheese has a strong and savory flavor that can add depth to pumpkin dishes. Gruyère, goat cheese, and cream cheese also go well with pumpkin.

How to season bland mac and cheese?

If you find your mac and cheese is bland, there are plenty of ways to add flavor and make it more enjoyable. The best way to season bland mac and cheese is to add spices, herbs, or sauteed onions or garlic.

More Pasta Recipes:

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

Super Green Pasta Sauce

Rasta Pasta with Jerk Chicken

Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

DID YOU MAKE THIS PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE?

Leave a star rating and comment below to let us know your thoughts. You can also share the recipe on Instagram and tag @eatwell.withlex.

A bowl of creamy pumpkin mac and cheese garnished with parmesan cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin mac and cheese is a luscious creamy mix of pasta, melty cheeses, and pumpkin puree, enhanced with warm spices for the ultimate healthy comfort food. Enjoy this one pot recipe as a side dish or vegetarian meal.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 3

Ingredients
  

  • 6 oz Mezzi rigatoni or your preferred pasta (about 3-4 cups)
  • ½ cup Pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup Unsweetened coconut milk or heavy cream
  • ¾ cup Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup Shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted butter
  • 2 Cloves garlic grated or minced
  • 2 tbsp Shallot finely chopped
  • 1 sprig Fresh rosemary
  • 2 Sage leaves
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ½ tsp Dried thyme
  • ½ tsp Smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
  • tsp Ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp Ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the instructions until it’s al dente. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooked pasta water.
  • Prepare the pumpkin cheese sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the shallot,  bay leaf, rosemary and sage. Allow the herbs to simmer in the butter until fragrant then add the garlic. Stir and saute for about 1 minute. The fresh herbs will infuse the butter with their flavors. Make sure to not burn the herbs and spices. Reduce the heat if you notice the butter and herbs are starting to burn.
  • Add the pumpkin puree and give it a good stir. Then, add the coconut milk, and all the spices (thyme, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper). Stir continuously until the mixture is heated through, well combined and smooth. Reduce the heat and bring the mixture to a low simmer (not a rapid boil) for about 2 minutes. Make sure to continuously stir.
  • Remove the sage leaves, bay leaf, and rosemary sprig and discard. Add the cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese to the mixture. Stir until the cheeses are fully melted and the sauce is smooth.
  • Combine the pasta and sauce: Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to the sauce. Gently fold the pasta into the sauce until it is well incorporated and evenly coated.
  • Serve and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Share your creations on Instagram! Tag us @Eatwell.withlex and use #eatwellwithlex! Don’t forget to leave a star rating and comment.

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Recipe Rating




3 comments

Sade November 2, 2023 - 2:39 pm

5 stars
Made this for a quick dinner and it was delicious!! Definitely adding to my weekly meal plan.

Reply
Eat Well with Lex November 6, 2023 - 11:59 pm

So glad to hear that you enjoyed this recipe! Thank you for trying it.

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Easy Baked Penne Vodka Pasta | Eat Well With Lex November 15, 2023 - 1:16 pm

[…] Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Recipe […]

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