In keeping with our theme of spicy foods for September, here is a delightful little recipe I dreamed up for a white habanero-infused mac n cheese. It’s got just the right amount of spice, and with chunks of pumpkin and thick-cut, smoky bacon mixed into the macaroni, it’s a hearty dish to start your autumn off right.
Kickin’ Pumpkin & Bacon Mac N Cheese
This recipe is loosely adapted from Laura Macek’s award-winning Best Ever Mac N Cheese.
- 1 pound of elbow macaroni or cavatelli pasta
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 1 cup of raw pumpkin, butternut, or red kuri squash, cubed
- 4 tbs butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 white habaneros, finely minced
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups whole milk
- 2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Remove the pasta 3 minutes sooner than it says on the package instructions. It’s okay it’s still a little al dente—it will finish cooking when it goes in the oven to bake. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pour cooked macaroni into greased baking sheet.
- Cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 1 tbs of bacon fat. Crumble the bacon when cool.
- Sauté pumpkin cubes over medium heat in bacon fat 5-6 minutes, until starting to brown. Remove pumpkin, and mix into the cooked pasta in the greased baking dish, reserving as much fat in the pan as possible.
- Add butter to reserved bacon fat. Sauté shallots and minced habaneros over low heat in remaining butter until shallots become translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook 1-2 minutes more. Increase heat to medium and, whisking constantly, slowly pour in the milk and continue whisking until mixture begins to bubble.
- Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and pumpkin and stir to evenly distribute.
- Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and bacon and sprinkle over top.
- Bake until cheese is completely melted and the top is slightly browned. 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!
This dish goes exceptionally well with Southern-style BBQ meats like pulled pork and brisket, which is how I found out that a little bit of BBQ sauce on top just makes it that much more delicious.