Today is my day off, I was up at seven A.M., as usual, and spent the morning lounging in bed, watching the news and reading up on my chances of buying the Hanson mmmMansion. I've been reflecting a lot lately on how much I love the fall season and Minneapolis at this time of the year, although I'm unhappy that farmer's market season is coming to a close soon. Today was one of those days. I went for a cruise to my favorite out-of-the-way Dunn Bros on the outskirts of downtown. The day makers are an attractive crew and they know exactly what I like. There is also an exhilarating feeling about being downtown on a beautiful morning which is probably the number one reason that I make the trip. I used to live a few blocks away so it has become a routine, one that I miss significantly since I moved.
When I got home, I chose to ignore cleaning my cave and folding my laundry in light of finding a filling fall dish to make for my sisters as an after school snack. I googled around and looked in Joy, but didn't find anything very good until I clicked my bookmark for Rachael Ray's website where I discovered Pumpkin Cheddar Mac n' Cheese. Talk about "yummo"!
Pumpkin Cheddar Mac n' Cheese taken from Rachael Ray's Official Website but adapted to my liking:
1 lb. whole wheat penne (Or just one box. Don't turn your head trying to convert measurements)
4 tablespoons butter (half stick)
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock (I mistakenly grabbed chicken broth. Same diff)
2 messy tablespoons honey
2 cups whole milk (Here I substituted reduced fat buttermilk because the recipe only calls for 2 cups and I didn't want to buy an entire half gallon of whole milk, so I got a small "on the go" milk instead)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper (I skipped this)
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (I used dried because I had it on hand)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can unsweetened pumpkin
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
I suggest doing as much prep as possible before you start. Once you get going, things come together very quickly!
This is the nutmeg, allspice, mustard, salt and pepper
Poorly grated cheese with useless plastic grater
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add salt, and cook penne until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Pre-heat oven or broiler, whichever you prefer. You can broil until the top is golden and bubbling, or you can bake until the same effect is reached. I'm terrified of the broiler, so I preheated the oven to 350.
Melt the butter in a medium sized sauce pot and whisk in flour. Allow the roux to cook until the color has darkened and there is a nutty aroma. I had a Le Cordon Bleu student on Facebook unnecessarily explain to me how to do this earlier when I posted my recipe, like I didn't already know. It ruffled my feathers a bit because I get defensive of my kitchen, and he is always interjecting like I'm a foolish amateur. Which I am, but only I can tell myself that!
Raise the heat and add the chicken stock. Reduce until almost evaporated. Add honey and slowly whisk in buttermilk. Again, Sir Knows A Lot told me to heat the milk beforehand or it will curdle. Duh. I just whisked the buttermilk in as one would add olive oil to a delicate mayonnaise. Very slowly. Once the milk has been thoroughly incorporated add your little prep bowl full of seasoning. Allow the sauce to thicken until it coats the inside of your stomach (or a spoon, that works too) and add more seasonings as you desire.
This is the fun part. If your medium sauce pot isn't big enough, good luck.
Scoop out the can of pumpkin puree in clumps and whisk into sauce one clump at a time until smooth. Stir in all of the cheese until completely melted and consistent.
Notice that my sauce pot was not big enough...
Lay your al dente penne pasta in a broil proof casserole dish if you're broiling or an oven safe casserole dish if you're baking, like so:
They typically say "Microwave Safe No Broiling" on the bottom
Evenly cover the pasta with your cheese sauce. Top the dish off with more cut cheddar, some paprika, and a sprinkle of parsley.
Stick in the oven until bubbling and golden.
I dare you not to eat all of it
Serves 4-6 hungry Minnesotans
Next time I would use whole milk. The buttermilk was fine, but it leaves a terrible taste in your mouth after. To find the original recipe go here. Let me know what you think! In the mean time, this will make your day: