Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Like most kids, my boys love macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, they are a bit less enthusiastic about healthier foods. So I found a great way to sneak a vitamin-packed fruit into their favorite food. I took my recipe for baked macaroni and cheese—which I came up with by combining a few other recipes I’d found over the years—and added pumpkin to it. (Yes, pumpkin is a fruit. I was surprised, too!) And it turned out delicious!

The first time I served my new concoction, my boys gobbled up the mac and cheese like they always had. I don’t think they even noticed a difference! Bwahahahahaha—I’m so sneaky! My hubby and I could barely notice the pumpkin, either. It definitely makes the mac and cheese a bit creamier and maybe even a little sweeter. Now, we never make macaroni and cheese without it!

Here’s the recipe so you can trick—I mean, try it out on—your own kids!

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne pasta (You can use whole-wheat penne.)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 2/3 tbsp. flour
2 2/3 cups two-percent milk
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 1/3 cup shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese (You can use this blend or just Monterey Jack.)
1 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.

2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk; cook until thick.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

5. Add the pumpkin purée and mix well. Remove from heat.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

6. Add cheeses, salt, and black pepper.

Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese

7. Combine the sauce with the pasta. Pour into the baking pan.

mac and cheese

8. Melt the remaining 3 tbsp. of  butter in a saucepan and toss in the breadcrumbs.

Mac and Cheese

9. Top the macaroni with the breadcrumbs.

10. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Mac and Cheese