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Mac N Cheese

In the Kitchen

Kickin’ Pumpkin & Bacon Mac N Cheese

September 10, 2015

Individual Mac N Cheese

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
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
  2. 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.
  3. Cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 1 tbs of bacon fat. Crumble the bacon when cool.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and bacon and sprinkle over top.
  8. 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.

Individual w: BBQ