Pumpkin Sage Mac and Cheese with Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping
This pumpkin sage mac and cheese is one of my favorite fall comfort food recipes! The creamy pumpkin cheese sauce is gently flavored with warm fall spices like nutmeg and thyme. Then it's topped with crunchy brown butter sage breadcrumbs and garnished with fried sage leaves.
- Author: Kelly @ Butter and Thyme
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: comfort food
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American (Southern)
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 lb. short pasta, i.e. medium shells
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1 cup Monterey jack, shredded
- 2 tablespoons chopped sage + whole leaves for garnish
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- Cook pasta as directed on the package to al dente, then drain (but do not rinse) and set aside.
Make Pumpkin Cheese Sauce:
- In a large pot, melt half of the butter (3 tablespoons) over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until it smells lightly nutty (about 1 minute). Slowly pour in the milk while constantly whisking. Then, let the mixture come to a simmer so it can thicken a bit (about 5 minutes). You can tell it’s the right consistency when it can coat the back of a wooden spoon without running down the spoon.
- Add the mustard, salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg, garlic powder, paprika, and crushed red pepper. Stir in the pumpkin until it is fully incorporated. Then, remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese a handful at a time, mixing after each addition, until the cheese is melted.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix to combine. Keep warm over low heat, or transfer to a 13x9 dish, cover with foil, and place in the oven at 300 degrees.
Make Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumb Topping:
- Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the butter is lightly browned and develops a nutty aroma. Remove from heat.
- Add the chopped sage and breadcrumbs to the pan, and stir to combine. Set the pan over low heat and lightly toast, stirring constantly, until golden brown.
- Top the pumpkin mac and cheese with the toasted sage breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
- Wipe out the pan with the breadcrumbs and reuse to fry sage leaves for garnish. (For easy instructions on how to fry sage leaves, see the blog post above)
- For a baked pumpkin mac and cheese, cook the pasta a little shy of al dente. Then bake at 350 covered with aluminum foil for 20-30 minutes. It will be a little drier and not as creamy as the stovetop directions since the pasta will absorb some of the sauce.
- To make a half batch, simply halve all of the ingredient amounts. The directions will remain the same.
Keywords: pumpkin sage mac and cheese, pumpkin mac and cheese with crunchy breadcrumb topping, pumpkin mac and cheese with fried sage