This Pumpkin Mac and 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.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
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 and here and here if ya wanna check those out too!
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!
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?
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.
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 ?
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 😉
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?
Until next time, take care & chit chat again soon 🙂
P.S. If you think that this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese will make your belly happy too, please be sure to hit that little PIN button. Many thanks, you guys! XO
Pumpkin Mac-n-Cheese with Kale & Bacon
- 2 tbsp olive oil -divided
- 1 small bunch of kale -leaves torn from steam in bite sized pieces
- 1 onion -minced
- 2 cloves garlic -minced
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2.5 cups milk -I used 1%
- 2 cups pure pumpkin puree
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese -shredded, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- pinch ground clove
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper -or to taste
- 6-8 slices bacon
- 1 package elbow macaroni -about 3 cups
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs -or regular bread crumbs
- Pam cooking spray
- fresh sage leaves -garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake bacon until crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Lay to one side.
- 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.
- 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.
- In same pot, add remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Add butter to onion/garlic mixture and melt. Add flour and stir to combine, cooking about 3 minutes.
- 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.
- Spray cast iron pan (about 12 inch pan) or similar sized oven safe pan with cooking spray and pour pasta mixture into.
- 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!