I’ve not gone all American, just paying homage to a couple of recipes for Pumpkin Macaroni Cheese that I recently read on US blogs over Thanksgiving time: Brokeass Gourmet and The Garden of Eating. Being new to this world of blogging I’ve being doing a bit of reading myself of other blogs and Twitters, and I’ve found some great sites just like these two.
This recipe has rekindled my old love affair with macaroni cheese. Mac cheese was always my ultimate comfort food, my mum without fail would make this cheesy treat when I was feeling poorly. The last few years though I’ve rarely made it, in part because my daughter Francesca has never liked creamy cheesy sauces, and it’s fallen out of my comfort food favour, preferring instead a simple casserole or pie. But this one is simply divine, bringing a slightly more grown up depth with the inclusion of pumpkin, onion and thyme. A fabulous dinner for kids, they’ll love it…although I have to admit Francesca still refused to budge on her dislike of macaroni cheese!
I’ve adapted my recipe from both these sites. They finish the dish in the oven with a breadcrumb topping. I was intending to do this, but had two hungry mouths to feed and simply ran out of time, so I served up straight out of the saucepan. One of the recipes also uses tinned pumpkin which is something that doesn’t exist outside the US, and besides here at Chez Foti we still have a considerable surplus of pumpkins to get through!
If you don’t have any pumpkin or it’s not particularly flavoursome, substitute with butternut squash. I like to add a smidgen of english mustard to my cheese sauce, as it heightens the flavour of the cheese.
Enough for a family of four:
350g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled
salt & pepper
a small onion, or half a normal sized, finely diced
40g plain flour
a few springs of thyme, leaves removed (optional)
90g cheddar cheese
½ tsp english mustard (optional)
Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel and cut the pumpkin or squash into roughly 1 to 2cm cubes. Place on a baking sheet or tray and rub in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
Meanwhile cook your macaroni according to packet instructions.
To make the sauce place the butter in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onion is translucent. Now add the thyme. With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and whisk vigorously with a balloon whisk until combined. Add a little milk and continue to whisk vigorously, continue to add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce constantly over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. When simmering, take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese and mustard (if using).
Once the pumpkin is roasted, mash roughly with the back of a fork and add to the cheese sauce. Combine the sauce with the pasta and serve immediately….unless obviously you have a little more time than me and want to bake it. If you do place in a buttered ovenproof dish and top with a little extra cheese and a handful of breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Here’s Jacques rather messily tucking into his Mac ‘n Cheese, refusing to use a spoon and only hands today. That’s my boy!