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November Recipe of the Month–Not Gourd!

Friday, December 2, 2011 @ 04:12 PM

008Well I haven’t gotten totally back in the groove, and with the Thanksgiving holiday last week I realized I completely forgot to post, I do apologize.  Unfortunately I don’t think this post is really going to make up for it though, because I will be the first to say this recipe was sort of a dud. 

Like many people this time of year, I am in love with fall flavors and more specifically pumpkin flavored just about anything, so I was intrigued by the idea of Rachael Ray’s Pumpkin Cheddar Mac and Cheese.  I mean what could be bad about it, pumpkin is very versatile, it can be sweet or savory.  I mean, I like noodles, I love cheese, I like pumpkin… it had all the makings of a perfect fall comfort food dish.  So one evening I was able to quickly whip up this dish for us to enjoy, one perk of any Rachael Ray dish is that they really do come together very quickly.  And this one, although seemed a bit more time consuming due to the sauce you make, it really was not difficult, very similar to making a béchamel sauce and adding pumpkin to it.  I also thought the addition of some amber beer was an interesting and potentially flavorful addition to the dish.

Pumpkin Cheddar Mac & Cheese

  • 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain short-cut pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 slightly rounded tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup amber beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • A couple of pinches ground cloves or 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée or 2 cups puréed fresh roasted pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese, divided
  • Sweet paprika, for sprinkling
  • Chopped parsley or chives to garnish

Yields: 4-6


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and reserve. Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, cook for 1 minute, then raise heat a bit and add beer. Reduce until almost evaporated then whisk in honey or syrup and milk. Season with cloves or allspice, mustard, cayenne, a little freshly grated nutmeg, some salt and pepper. Thicken to coat spoon, a couple of minutes, then taste to adjust seasonings.

Whisk in pumpkin purée then stir in about 2 cups grated cheese with a wooden spoon until melted. Combine pasta with sauce and arrange in a casserole or individual ramekins. Sprinkle remaining cheese and a light dusting of paprika. Broil to brown and bubble. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.




It emerged from browning in the oven looking positively creamy, cheesy, and delicious, but unfortunately this dish looked better than it tasted, it just really fell short in the flavor department.  Adam and I both took a big ol’ bite and were both more than disappointed.  For someone who loves mac and cheese as much as Adam this really missed the bar and as for me, I just was disappointed that it really had no flavor.  I mean you could taste the pumpkin, but it really added more in texture than any distinguishable flavor.  And because of the pumpkin addition adding creaminess, I assume this is why Rachael uses less cheese in the recipe, you know to make it healthy.  But I’m sorry, if I’m going to eat Mac and Cheese, I’m not really concerned about the health factor.  I’m also now convinced that I really don’t like whole wheat pasta, I have tried it many times and I like many many healthy and whole wheat items, just not pasta.  So again, if I’m going to enjoy it, I would prefer the real deal.  Whole wheat pasta just ends up tasting chalky to me and that coupled with the texture of the pumpkin did not help me in the taste department.  I will say that with the addition of more cheese and letting this dish sit another day or so, did allow us to somewhat enjoy the leftovers, but we both agreed this dish needs some major tweaking it we were ever going to truly enjoy it.

TASTE: Well if you hadn’t gathered from my description the taste of this dish was rather nondescript and bland.  While the pumpkin flavor came through slightly, it didn’t add enough to the dish and needed some other major flavors to complement it, instead it just fell flat.

EASE OF PREPARATION: For a dish that comes out looking very pretty and gourmet, it was very easy to put together and really only took about 30 minutes or so, so while the taste wasn’t outstanding with a few tweaks it could be a very easy flavorful fall dish to whip together.

COST: Along with not being very complicated, it also wasn’t extremely expensive since it doesn’t require any obscure ingredients.  Unfortunately for us we couldn’t find anything smaller than a case of amber beer, so it cost us considerably more to make, but if you are just figuring what you need for the dish alone, it would be fairly cheap to put together.

COMPLEXITY: Like I said, not overly complex, really just boiling the pasta and while you are doing that making the pumpkin cheese sauce that will go over it.  The most complex part is just making sure you are stirring the sauce consistently so it doesn’t burn and thickens without getting clumpy.

PORTION SIZE: I felt that the recipe was correct in saying that it would feed 4 to 6, we each had a fairly large portion the first night and then were able to split the leftovers, so it could easily feed 4-6.

I was pretty disappointed that this dish didn’t turn out to be as exciting as I had hoped, another case of the result not meeting the expectations.  While we agreed that some additions could possibly make it better, I’m not sure I would even say it was worth trying again.  While I had high hopes, this dish fell short and therefore only gets 2 little piggies.


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