Cold fall weather is a perfect time for comfort foods like this rich and creamy Pumpkin Mac and Cheese! Loaded with protein and vitamin A, it’s perfect for lunch or dinner. Kids love it and it’s healthy too!
It’s November and temperatures are dropping and snow is on the way. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be sporting chunky sweaters and wool socks and hunkering down indoors for the next few months. 🙂 This is my favorite time of year because I can turn up my oven and bake all my favorite comfort foods for my family. Macaroni and Cheese is always a crowd pleaser and a staple on my cold-weather menu, but this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is a healthier version than the original and tastes just as ooey-gooey and delicious. Read on to find out how to make it!
How to Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Cook your pasta. I used elbow macaroni, but spiral or shells would work well too. Cook the pasta al dente – do not overcook! Then, strain the pasta and set aside.
- Make your pumpkin cheese sauce. Melt butter in a large dutch oven. Add flour and spices and cook for one minute. Whisk in milk and pumpkin puree. Mix and heat until thick and creamy. When it starts to lightly boil, remove it from the heat and add your cheese. I used white cheddar, extra-sharp aged cheddar, and parmesan, but Colby Jack, Gouda and Gruyère would be delicious as well. Your cheese will melt quickly and your sauce should be thick and creamy.
- Add your pasta. Return the al dente pasta to the pot and mix well. I toped with parmesan cheese, but adding bread crumbs would be good too.
- Bake your Mac and Cheese. To avoid washing multiple dishes, I boiled my pasta, cooked my cream sauce, and baked the casserole all in a dutch oven. However, you could also mix your Mac & Cheese and then transfer it to a 9×13 baking dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
What makes This Pumpkin Mac and Cheese healthy
- It’s loaded with protein. Kids need about .45 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. So, a 40 pound child needs approximately 18 grams of protein a day. Protein, especially for growing children, is extremely important. It is needed to repair tissue and build strong bones and muscles. There is whopping 17 grams of protein in each serving of this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, making it a great source of protein for your kids! For more information on kids and protein check out the Feed Nutrition Consulting website.
- It’s full of healthy fats. This Pumpkin Mac and Cheese has three kinds of cheese: white cheddar, extra-sharp aged cheddar, and parmesan. Cheese is a high-fat food, but it contains powerful fatty acids that have been shown to have benefits like reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes. Cheese is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorous and selenium, and is high in protein too.
- It’s packed with Vitamin A. Pumpkin is so good for you! It is incredibly high in vitamin A. In one cup of pumpkin, there is 425% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Pumpkin contains antioxidants and is also high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, manganese, vitamin B2, vitamin E, and iron. [Note: Butternut squash would be a good option for this meal as well. Check out my Butternut Squash Pancakes to learn more about butternut squash nutritional facts.]
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups medium white cheddar cheese
- 2 cups extra sharp aged cheddar cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook the elbow macaroni al dente according to the package. [Do not overcook.] Strain and set aside.
3. In a large pot of dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and nutmeg and cook for one minute, stiring continually.
4. Whisk in milk and pumpkin puree. Cook over medium hit, stirring often. It will begin to thicken as it heats. When it starts to lightly boil, remove it from heat and add your cheeses. Save back 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. The cheese will melt quickly and your sauce should be very thick and creamy.
5. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and mix it into the cheese sauce well.
6. If using a dutch oven, top with remaining parmesan cheese, place the lid on top and bake for 30 minutes. If using a pot, transfer to a 13x9 baking dish, top with parmesan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 373Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 69mgSodium 579mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 17g