Pumpkin Mac-and-Cheese with Kale and Bacon

Pumpkin Mac-and-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

Pumpkin Mac-and-Cheese with Kale and Bacon

This Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon takes only  about 20 minutes prep and then you just throw it in the oven for about 30 minutes.  What you’re left with is pasta surrounded by a creamy, cheesy pumpkin sauce infused with flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, smoked paprika and a touch of cayenne.  Let’s not forget the hearty kale and crispy bacon.  You’re gonna love this one!

Hiya!  How’s it going, you guys?  How was your weekend?  I don’t know if you remember from my last post, but I’m in recent possession of some old school records!  This weekend over some vino, and while we were prepping dinner, hubby and I played some of them.  My grandfather (or ‘pop’ as I call him), recently gave my brother and I some records to share up.  I gave hubby a record player a couple of years ago for Christmas and have been hooked on listening to records ever since.  We typically turn it on during the weekend when we have a little more time to enjoy.  These old country records that my pop had given me were in meticulous condition, so perfect, and it was so awesome to turn them on and hear that classic crackling sound as the record started to play.   What a joy 🎶

Years ago, I typically liked dance and r & b and that was pretty much what I listened to.  These days?  Practically anything goes!  I love all genres of music, though maybe not metal<—my brother got those genes😜     I called my nan & pop Saturday night thanking them once again for those records.  I even joked to them (though half serious) that my brother and I were fighting (playfully) over who would get which records.  They got such a kick out of that and were so proud that we wanted them.  They had big belly laughs and just to hear them laugh made my night💗

It’s so nice to listen to older songs, songs of the past.  Songs that my grandfather enjoyed listening to.  What was he doing when he listened to those records?  Was he & nan sitting around having a nightcap or having dinner like hubby and I were Saturday night?  Probably.  I’d like to think so. My brother once said this thing –‘nostalgia clouds your judgement; nothing is ever as good as you remember it.’  While that maaaay be true sometimes and sometimes it’s hard to go back, it isn’t always true.  Some things are meant to stay preserved in time, as they were perfected and cherished only in memory and heart.  Then, there’s the odd time that going back or reminiscing ain’t such a bad thing.

Ok, I just may be getting a little sentimental here….so…moving on, shall we?  It’s hard to make a sensible transition here, so I’m just gonna jump right into it, ‘k?  This Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon is mac-n-cheese taken up a level or two.  It’s like mac-n-cheese for adults (or really sophisticated kids, lol).  Like, I’ve said before, the cans of pure pumpkin purée that we get ’round here are ginormous.  There’s always way too much for any one recipe (that I make anyway) and I’m in a constant struggle to waste not, want not and reduce food waste; I’m always looking for ways to re-use odds and ends of this and bits of that, ya know?  I have a few pumpkin recipes here, here and here if ya wanna check those out too!

Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

So, just last week I shared a spiced pumpkin hummus.  So, there was a fair bit of pumpkin hanging out in our fridge.  Given that the weather is starting to get cooler and me craving all things comfort (nothing new there), I decided to whip up this Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon!

Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

I must admit, hubby was a tad skeptical when I said that I wanted to make mac-n-cheese with pumpkin.  Though, he had doubts about spiced pumpkin hummus, and that turned out deliciously!   Thankfully, I turned him into a believer when he tried this👍
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

There’s a few steps here, but it is all super easy (which is totally my jam) and it only takes about 20 minutes prep.  Not bad, is it?  You basically have your standard white sauce for the mac, but then it’s amped up with pure pumpkin puree and then warm fall spices are added to the mix, along with sautéed kale and crispy bacon.  I mean, c’mon, you really can’t go wrong here.

Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

I used about a 12 inch cast iron skillet to bake this mac-n-cheese, but you can use a similarly sized oven safe pan.  I’ve been all about that skillet lately and just seem to think that everything tastes better in it.  I remember as a child, for some weird reason, I didn’t like things cooked in a skillet.  Don’t have any clue what that’s about.  Though, I didn’t like spinach or kale either and now I’m all about that💚  I remember if either was on my plate, I would try to sneak it under the side of the plate, hiding it,  thinking that my parents couldn’t see (but, ya know they totally could).  There’s not much I don’t like these days.  Though, don’t give me shell in any egg dish, but you may already know that 😳Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

When the whole thing was baked to bubbling perfection, I just topped with a few fresh sage leaves from the garden.  YES! There is still herbs growing in our garden!  I couldn’t believe it!  The weather is cold, but some of the herbs are still thriving for another while longer, especially the sage and rosemary!! Yeah for that!  If you don’t have any fresh sage, not to worry!  It’s mainly for aesthetic purposes anyway in this dish 😉

Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

This reheats amazingly well, but are you really gonna have leftovers?  Invite some friends over, have a glass of vino and enjoy!  Maybe listen to a record while you’re at it👌
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

Until next time, take care & chit chat again soon 🙂


P.P.S. If you think that this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Kale and Bacon will make your belly happy too, please  be sure to hit that little PIN button down below to save for later.  Many thanks, you guys! XO

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Kale and Bacon - girlheartfood.com

Print Recipe
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale & Bacon
This Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale and Bacon takes only about 20 minutes prep and then you just throw it in the oven for about 30 minutes. What you're left with is pasta surrounded by a creamy, cheesy pumpkin sauce infused with flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, smoked paprika and a touch of cayenne. Let's not forget the hearty kale and crispy bacon. You're gonna love this one!
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese - girlheartfood.com
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30-35 minutes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30-35 minutes
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese - girlheartfood.com
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake bacon until crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Lay to one side.
  2. At the same time the bacon is cooking, cook pasta per about 3/4 of package instructions. It will finish cooking in oven later. Drain. Lay to one side.
  3. Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp olive oil to medium sized pot on medium low and cook kale until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from pot and lay to one side for later.
  4. In same pot, add remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Add butter to onion/garlic mixture and melt. Add flour and stir to combine, cooking about 3 minutes.
  6. Slowly add milk to onion mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time and it will thicken. This will take about 3-5 minutes. Add pumpkin puree. Stir to combine. Turn off heat and add reserved kale, bacon (crumble it), 2.5 cups of cheese, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cayenne, stirring to combine. Stir with cooked pasta.
  7. Spray cast iron pan (about 12 inch pan) or similar sized oven safe pan with Pam and pour pasta mixture into.
  8. Top with remaining 1.5 cups of cheese and panko crumbs. Reduce oven to 350F and bake 30-35 minutes until brown and bubbly. Garnish with sage leaves if using. Enjoy!
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53 thoughts on “Pumpkin Mac-and-Cheese with Kale and Bacon

  1. Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop says:

    When you add bacon to just about anything, you’ve got a winner! This looks like total comfort food….and a healthy one with that!
    Love that you are playing all those old records. Several years ago I brought some out to show my students….they didn’t know what they were! I have a small stash of records, but no player to play them on!
    Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop recently posted…Butternut Squash SoupMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      I agree, Kathy! Bacon adds so much flavour 🙂 That’s so funny that your students didn’t know what the records were. I bet one day kids probably won’t recognize cds, either. Nothing like listening to records on a records player. That sound is just wonderful! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  2. Jolina says:

    Now THIS is how mac n cheese is done! It looks so good and it doesn’t help that I’m reading this now, lunch is an hour away!! Just so happens too that we bought a new cast iron skillet (a set actually from, where else, Costco lol) so we (ok Red) is whipping up all kinds of cast iron things! I am definitely putting this in the queue. And what a lovely time you’re having with those records 🙂 Though some things are meant to stay in the past I think (like my really fashionable Madonna phase for example hahaha)

  3. Miriam - londonkitchendiaries.com says:

    That cheesy pumpkin sauce sounds out of this world – my kind of combination! What a lovely present from your grandfather – it must be so much fun listing to those old country records. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. My aunty promised me an old family recipe book for Christmas that has handwritten notes from my grandma and grand-grand ma in it. I think this will be my absolute favourite Christmas present this year 🙂 Have a lovely weekend!
    Miriam – londonkitchendiaries.com recently posted…An Autumn Visit to the Geffrye Museum, Gardens & AlmshouseMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Thank you so much, Miriam! It definitely was a lovely present 🙂 Oh my goodness! What a treasure that recipe book is!! That is the BEST!!! And all those handwritten notes?? Love it 🙂 Have a lovely weekend too!!

  4. karrie @ Tasty Ever After says:

    Goodness this mac n cheese looks da bomb girl!!!! Love that you made it healthy with the bacon…I mean kale. lol! Mac n cheese is J’s favorite so I will probably be making as a side for our Thanksgiving dinner.
    LOVE that you got records from your Grandparents! We listen to records all the time too. Just another thing we have in common. I’m starting to think you’re my long lost sista! p.s. if we lived close to each other, I’d bring over some steaks and martini fixings and you could make this mac n cheese and chocolate/pumpkin swirl loaf. YUM! Hope you and Mr.B have a wonderful week 🙂 xoxo
    karrie @ Tasty Ever After recently posted…Easy Fish TacosMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Thanks girl!! Well, ya know, I figured I had to put the bacon in there to balance out that kale 😉 hehehe!! I’m starting to think that we are long lost sisters too. It’s unreal. Actually, you probably know what I’m gonna write next, don’t you? K, now you are freaking me out 😀 Just kidding’ 😉 One of these days we definitely will get together for a kick ass meal and drinks, regardless if we live close together or not 🙂 You guys have a great weekend too!! xoxo

  5. Tracy | Baking Mischief says:

    That’s so sweet of your grandpa to give his grandkids some of his records! Music is such a great way to connect to the past, and I’m sure he loves that he gets to share that with you!

    This looks delish, Dawn!! Love that you managed to sneak kale in there too, so you can feel good about getting your veggies while eating all that cheesy pasta. 😉
    Tracy | Baking Mischief recently posted…Bacon Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese for TwoMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      It definitely was a nice treat, that’s for sure! It’s going to be fun going through them all.

      I figured the kale balanced out all the cheese and bacon….hehehe 😉 Thanks so much, Tracy!!

  6. Loreto Nardelli says:

    Dawn, you have out done your self on this one, love mac and cheese, and with the addition of the kale and bacon double yum,. looks so cheesy and gooey. As for old school records, I am totally envious. I would love to have a record player and great sound system for our music room, which I may add am very proud of all those beautiful instruments in. but turntable to disc is a sound all its own. It is making a great come back and that I may say is a proud moment.
    Have fun listening to the records and eating that luxurious mac and cheese. Well done!

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Thanks so much, Loreto! That’s sweet of you to say! We really enjoy listening to the record player. It’s so nice to put one on and listen to the whole thing and hear what the complete album is like. And to have a nice meal and glass of vino while we’re listening is a perfect evening for us. Hope you’re having a lovely week 🙂

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Thanks Nicoletta!! I love using my cast iron pan and just love the rusticness of it. Yay for fresh herbs….hopefully, we’ll get another couple of weeks of them. Hope you’re having a great week 🙂

  7. Amanda@craftycookingmama says:

    I saw this recipe earlier today when you shared it on Facebook and was totally blown away! The pumpkin, the bacon, the cheese, the pasta – this is something I definitely need in my life….and soon! Awesome Fall comfort food!
    Love the trip down memory lane – it’s always wonderful to reminisce! My grandfather was all about the polka and played the accordion quite well. It wasn’t so cool when I was a kid….but man, oh man, I really wished I would have learned how to play it – just for fun 🙂
    Hope you have a wonderful week Dawn ♥

  8. Shashi at RunninSrilankan says:

    So sweet of ya to have made your pop and nan’s Saturday – it’s a beautiful thing when a gift is so appreciated. I also see what your brother means – sometimes, our memories of the past are indeed better than what it actually was – but, I like to think that memories are like fine wine – they get better with age – no? Besides, me thinks that it just makes my heart happier trying to make memories better than worse. But, I don’t have to think that this here decadent mac and cheese is EPIC in every way! Cos I KNOW! Just adding the pumpkin to it makes mac and cheese mouthwatering – but, GAWSH – you added in kale AND bacon AND perfectly bubbled cheese! Oh good gawsh, I need to stop thinking of this dish or am gonna short out my keyboard with all this drool!
    Shashi at RunninSrilankan recently posted…Chocolate Oat Breakfast CakeMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Yes, I like to think so too….memories are like a fine wine, they get better with age 🙂 Like that one! Haha! So happy you are loving the recipe, Shashi! Even the leftovers were yummy 🙂 Hope you’re having a lovely week!

  9. Kathleen | Hapa Nom Nom says:

    Old records are great! My dad had a huge collection of records – Beatles, Rolling Stones, all the greats from the 60’s-80’s. I had always hoped to take them on one day. When my parents retired, he took all of his records to a thrift store and just gave them away for free! I couldn’t believe it! I told him he gave away a small fortune. Ugh… I still give him hell about it 😉 In any event, what a fantastic dish – so perfect for Thanksgiving! And the combination of flavors is just spectacular!
    Kathleen | Hapa Nom Nom recently posted…Garlic Butter Dinner RollsMy Profile

  10. Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table says:

    We have a record player that my parents gave us because my husband is really into music and we’ve loved listening to some of their old music – I’m with you that nostalgia can be good sometimes for sure!
    As for this recipe, you know I am LOVING it! All that creamy mac and cheese plus some of my favorites – pumpkin, kale and bacon! Seriously scrumptious!
    Kathryn @ Family Food on the Table recently posted…Cranberry balsamic pork chopsMy Profile

  11. Rachel @ Bakerita says:

    How cool about about finding those old records! I’ve always loved the sound of listening to records – jealous you have a record player! This mac and cheese is fall dinner perfection, and that crunchy crust is absolutely calling out to me. Bacon, kale and pumpkin were the most fabulous additions. Swooning over here!
    Rachel @ Bakerita recently posted…Paleo Persimmon BreadMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Listening to our record player has quickly become our new favourite thing to do on the weekend, especially now that the weather is getting colder! And then adding comfort food is just the icing on the cake 😉 Thanks so much, Rachel! Hope you have a great week 🙂

  12. Sues says:

    I already loveee skillet mac and cheese because there’s so much crispy topping. And pumpkin seriously makes anything better (well, most things!). Don’t even get me started on bacon… All balanced out with kale. Basically, this looks awesome! I can totally see myself sitting down to a plate of this along with some old school country music playing on the record player 🙂
    Sues recently posted…Friday I’m in Love #9: I Hope You Like My DogMy Profile

  13. Sarah @ Champagne Tastes says:

    I’m all about the pumpkin mac and cheese! It’s sooo tasty! And I totally agree about that 12″ cast iron– it’s my favorite! (Although I’m a little inclined to reach for the 10″.. because my arms are wimpy and the 12″ is HEAVY lol)

  14. Stephanie | The Foodie and The Fix says:

    So cool to get those records from your grandparents, Dawn! You’re so right, there’s nothing better than that nostalgia-inducing crackling record sound. Reminds me of my grandmother putting on old Patsy Cline records when we would visit her in the summer when my sister and I were little. We would dance and sing and laugh! It was THE best. This heartwarming post totally made my morning, btw (and reminds me that I should call my grandparents today!)
    I need to make this. Nay – NEEEEEED! This sounds and looks so amazing, Dawn. Between the pumpkin and the spices and the cheese… so much fall comfort-y goodness! Pinned, of course! XO
    Stephanie | The Foodie and The Fix recently posted…Red Wine Vinegar & Maple Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and OnionsMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Awwwww….thanks Stephanie!! So happy you enjoyed the post!! So nice to reminisce, isn’t it? Patsy Cline is pretty great too! All the classics are 🙂 Thanks so much for the sweet comment and Pin. Appreciate it! XO

  15. Kevin | Keviniscooking says:

    I used to have a HUGE record collection and over the years and moves who knows where they all ended up. You brought back memories with the crackle sound as needle hits record! Back then records had a theme and album art. You looked forward to it, it was cohesive and a story, Now they are a package of sounds and hopefully one of those becomes a hit. But I digress!
    I was intrigued, pumpkin in mac & cheese, but I know as a food blogger and cook not to judge and then I saw the photo of you stirring in the bacon. SOLD. This looks so creamy dreamy good Dawn. 🙂
    Kevin | Keviniscooking recently posted…Slow Cooker Ham Bone Bean SoupMy Profile

    • Girl Heart Food says:

      Too bad you still didn’t have them! How awesome would that be? I completely know what you mean about the records having a theme and it was story. You listened to all the songs, learned lyrics and now it’s completely not the same. I’m really glad I sold ya on the mac and cheese 😀 It is really good!! Thanks Kevin!

  16. Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says:

    SOOOOOOOOOOO cool that you have a record player and your grandpa gave you some of his old records! You know what, I’ve NEVER heard a real record before. Too bad we aren’t neighbors, or I’d pop on by. 😉 So sweet that you and your hubsters listen to tunes from the good ‘ole record player on the weekend! I bet that playing in the background is the best way to cook! Speaking of, this MAC! Wowza, girlfriend!! Seriously, this looks absolutely deeeeeeelish! You really packed in the flavor and I love that you added kale and BACON. YUM! Cheers, sweets!
    Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary recently posted…Apple & Cheddar Hard Cider Soup {with Crispy Prosciutto & Pumpkin Seeds}My Profile

  17. David @ Spiced says:

    Sounds like you guys had a great weekend listening to some old tunes! Those records over a bottle of wine sound like an excellent way to spend a chilly weekend day. And then is this mac and cheese made an appearance, too? Well that would pretty much be the best thing ever! You can’t ever go wrong with mac and cheese, and I’m thinking this pumpkin addition here sounds quite tasty. Hope your Monday is off to a great start, Dawn! 🙂
    David @ Spiced recently posted…Stuffed Pepperoni Pizza RollsMy Profile

  18. annie@ciaochowbambina says:

    I know you’ll turn many people into believers with this recipe!! And thanks for sharing your story…those that help conjure up sweet memories of yesteryear are always my favorite! We too got a record player a couple years ago and we play albums when we think about it. And truthfully – there is nothing better than that classic crackling sound you can only get from a player. When I’m finished here, I just might have to go put on my old favorite and first 45 – Andy Gibb’s, “I Just Want To Be Your Everything”! hahah! Thanks for sharing, my friend! Have lovely week! XOXO
    annie@ciaochowbambina recently posted…Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing with Sausage and ApplesMy Profile

  19. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    That is SO nice that your grandpa gave you some old records! And how fun that you have a record player, too. I can only imagine how nice it must be to sip some wine and listen to some real music. I’m like you and only listened to mainly pop and rock when I was younger, still do, but I do like more of a variety now and feel like I really appreciate it more. And this mac ‘n cheese….WOW! What a perfect fall dish, Dawn! I made a pumpkin pasta two years ago, but never with kale and bacon. This looks like my kind of comfort food! Pinned, of course! Hope your week is off to a great start!
    Gayle @ Pumpkin ‘N Spice recently posted…Herb Roasted PotatoesMy Profile

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