Recipe from Heather Christo’s Generous Table by Heather Christo (Kyle Books, 2013)
Pete and I have become famous for our macaroni and cheese, amongst our friends, at least. I’m not really sure that there is any dish more comforting and consistently sure to produce huge smiles. For me, playing with the mac and cheese ingredients to suit each season and occasion is part of the fun—the other, much larger part, is eating it, of course! So, whether it is by changing up the cheeses and adding lobster, as in Lobster Macaroni and Cheese (page 194), or by adding pumpkin and bacon as I have done here, this dish can take on many personalities.
Generous Tip: I have upped the ante baking this recipe in a pumpkin. While it is indeed a showstopper (and very easy for the fantastic results), this mac and cheese will be just as celebrated if you serve it in a humble baking dish.
Serves 6 to 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- One 8-pound pumpkin, preferably the Cinderella variety (optional)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound macaroni noodles
- 6 strips thick-cut bacon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups pumpkin, diced (squash would also be delicious)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups shredded
- sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon
- cayenne pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. If you are not using the pumpkin, prepare a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. If using the pumpkin, slice off the top one-third of the way down. Scrape out and discard the seeds and pulp to create a bowl. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.
3. Place the pumpkin and its top directly on a baking stone or on a large sheet pan and bake for 1 hour, or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, make the macaroni: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles and boil until 1 minute shy of their al dente cooking time, according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cool water, drain again and set aside.
5. Cook the bacon in a large heavy pot over medium heat until crispy and all the fat has been rendered, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the bacon, chop roughly and set aside.
6. In the same pot over medium heat, melt ¼ cup of the butter into the bacon fat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and cook for 6 to 8 minutes—the pumpkin should be just tender, not mushy or falling apart. Season with salt, transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
7. In the same heavy pot over medium heat, melt the remaining ¼ cup butter. Add the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the butter and flour form a smooth paste or roux. Add the cream, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Add the milk and stir the roux until smooth. Stir in the garlic. Add the cheese and stir until very smooth. Add the cayenne pepper and season with salt.
8. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the macaroni noodles. Add the onions, pumpkin and bacon and stir everything together really well. Spoon the macaroni into the pumpkin (or the baking dish) and bake for 30 minutes, until the macaroni and cheese is very hot and bubbly on the edges and the top is crispy and golden.
9. Serve immediately.