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White Cheddar Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

By Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD | October 27, 2020 | Rally Health

Cheese, butter, and milk are staples in classic mac and cheese. They’re also why a one-cup serving can easily contain 24g of fat, including 14g –– or more –– of the saturated, artery-clogging kind. Creating a healthier version of this family favorite that can compete taste- and texture-wise with the rich creaminess of traditional mac and cheese wasn’t easy. That is, until I tried adding a secret ingredient: pumpkin. 

I know, I know, adding pumpkin to mac and cheese may sound odd. The idea stems from a trend I spotted a few years back, when chefs and foodies started throwing butternut squash into their mac and cheese recipes. I thought it was genius –– and that achieving the same creaminess might be possible with pumpkin, too.

Turns out, it was. This version eats like a traditional mac and cheese but contains 50% less fat and saturated fat. Using extra-sharp white Cheddar allows you to cut back on the amount of cheese you use without sacrificing flavor. Adding pumpkin brings creaminess –– and a Vitamin A boost –– to the dish. You can make this two ways: Bake as directed, or, if you’re in a hurry, dish it out off the stovetop at the end of Step 4. Either way, it’s delish. 

White Cheddar-Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Serves 12

Cook time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 (16-oz) box whole-grain penne 

1 ½ Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour 

2 cups 1% milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp dry mustard

½ tsp pepper

1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree

1 (8-oz) block extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 Tbsp panko

Directions

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute or until slightly golden, stirring constantly. Slowly add milk. Cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. 

4. Add pumpkin, salt, garlic powder, dry mustard, and pepper to saucepan; stir well to combine. Add grated Cheddar cheese and 5 Tbsp Parmesan cheese. Cook 3 minutes or until cheese is completely melted, stirring frequently. 

5. Lightly coat a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add cooked pasta to cheese sauce, stirring to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine remaining 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese with panko. Sprinkle across top. 

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot throughout. Turn oven to broil and cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 

NUTRITION FACTS (per 1 cup ): Calories 300; Total Fat 11g (Saturated Fat 6); Cholesterol 30mg; Sodium 380mg; Total Carbs 39g (Dietary Fiber 4g, Total Sugars 4g, Added Sugars 0g); Protein 14g.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
Rally Health

Articles on Rally Health’s website are provided for informational purposes only, as a free resource for the public. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Rally Health does not accept solicitations or compensation from any parties mentioned in the articles, and the articles are not an endorsement of any providers, experts, websites, tools, or financial consultants, services, and organizations.