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For those who believe pumpkin belongs in more things than just a latte or a pie, this pumpkin mac and cheese will satisfy all your autumnal cravings. Creamy, cheesy, and savory, the pumpkin bechamel teams up with fontina and smoked gouda to create a luscious sauce that coats the entire noodle. For an addictively crunchy topping without turning on the oven, garlic butter parmesan breadcrumbs are toasted on the stove and sprinkled over the saucy pasta. All this fall recipe needs is some maple bacon brussels sprouts and a thematic slice of pumpkin cheesecake.

What does pumpkin mac and cheese taste like?
While dessert for dinner does sound like a dream, this pumpkin mac and cheese is not a sweet treat! Just like sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash, pumpkin puree does have a slight natural sweetness. The earthy flavors mingle with herbaceous sage and warm nutmeg for a gently spiced savory pumpkin recipe of your dreams. Many people add an egg or two to their mac and cheese to make the sauce smooth and rich, but here the pumpkin provides the same velvety effect. The core of this recipe is, however, a creamy stovetop mac and cheese. A classic bechamel sauce is flavored with onion and garlic. Smoky cheese is folded into the pumpkin cream sauce before introducing al dente noodles. Finally garlicky, cheesy breadcrumbs are liberally sprinkled over each serving.

What kind of cheese is in pumpkin mac and cheese?
This recipe calls for two good melting cheeses; smoked gouda and fontina. There is also some salty parmesan in the breadcrumbs. The smokiness of the gouda plays well with the warm pumpkin and sage. The fontina keeps the sauce nice and smooth while the parmesan seasons the dish.

What other cheeses can you use in pumpkin mac and cheese?
The gouda can be replaced with cheddar or gruyere and the fontina can be swapped with monterey jack or munster.

4 – 6 servings

15 mins

45 mins


  • ¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated and divided
  • ½ c. panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more for pasta water
  • ¾ tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • ¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. dry cavatappi pasta
  • 6 sage leaves
  • ½ medium yellow onion, grated
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 8 oz. fontina cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz. smoked gouda cheese, shredded


  1. In a small nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add 1 grated garlic clove and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the panko breadcrumbs, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and toast, stirring frequently, until the panko is golden brown, 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the parmesan.
  3. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to taste. Cook, stirring the pasta, until just under al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
  4. In the same pot over medium heat, melt the remaining ¼ cup of butter. Stir in the sage leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sage is lightly fried and the butter is deeply golden and smells toasty. Remove the sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate and add the onion to the butter. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining 2 grated garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, and the remaining ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook until the raw flour smell disappears, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and cook until very thick, 5 minutes. 
  5. Remove the pot from heat and gradually add the shredded cheeses, whisking until melted before adding more. Taste for salt.
  6. Fold in the drained noodles, adding pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce coats the noodles.
  7. Serve the pumpkin mac and cheese hot, sprinkled with the toasted panko bread crumbs and crumbled sage.

Tip: Play around with the pasta shapes! Any short, ridge-filled pasta will work beautifully with this creamy sauce such as medium shells, mezzi rigatoni, fusilli, farfalle, or regular ol’ elbows!

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