We really need to embrace it, right?
I don’t care if basic is seen as a bad thing, if it means that we can add nutrition to our pasta with pumpkin and get excited about cooler temps and changing leaves and UGGS then FINE. That isn’t a bad thing in my book, so we celebrate the basic.
I have like 37 other recipes like this. Do you want to know about them or not? It’s your call.
I made this a few days ago and am taking some to my mom tonight and it just really does the fall thing for me. I like all kinds of mac all the dang time, but this is a nice change with no cheddar and cheese mixed in instead of a cheese sauce – the pumpkin takes care of the coat-the-noodles thing. PLUS, mushrooms and sage and spinach? Fall into fall. Stop fighting it. The skillet aspect just makes it cute.
You need pasta, garlic, sage, gruyere or some other kind of melty cheese that you like, canned pumpkin (read with your eyes: not pumpkin pie filling), spinach, half and half, shiitake mushrooms, nutmeg, and panko bread crumbs. Not terribly hard, now that you think about it.
Now, you DO use two pots here: one to boil the pasta and one for everything else. I can’t figure out a way around that, sorry. So, first, boil the pasta to two minutes BEFORE al dente with 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved before you drain the pasta. Then prep the veggies! For the shiitake, take the stems off and thinly slice the caps.
Now, find a really large skillet that can go into the oven. This is a 12-inch cast iron skillet. If you don’t have anything that fits this description, just make this in two skillets, mix it all together, then bake it in a baking dish. No biggie! Preheat the skillet to medium with a drizzle of olive oil and add the mushrooms.
To build the sauce, dump in the canned pumpkin and the half and half. The pumpkin thickens the sauce without a butter/flour thingamajig like we’d usually see in mac and cheese. Healthy! Add the nutmeg here too, the pasta water you reserved, and a sprinkle of salt.
Stir the sauce into the mushrooms to smooth it out, then dump in the cooked-ish pasta, most of the cheese cubes, and the spinach. Then fuss to yourself that this skillet REALLY ISN’T BIG ENOUGH and the spinach will NEVER WILT DOWN but you know it will, so just turn the heat off the skillet and stir stir stir until everything is nicely combined and the spinach is a bit wilted.
Now, here’s your make-ahead option: if you want to eat this later, stick it in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days. If you’d like to bake this now, do so at 375F for 20 minutes or so until the mac is hot and bubbly and the top is browned.
First fall recipe, done and done. I do think that some grilled sliced chicken or crumbled sausage would be GREAT in this, so don’t hesitate to add a protein to add a little bit of substance to the meal. But, the pasta + pumpkin + veggies make for a perfect meal too!
Be basic, bitches.
- 12 ounces short pasta, cooked to 2 minutes before al dente and 1/2 cup cooking liquid reserved
- 1 pint shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 15 ounce can plain pumpkin puree
- 1 cup half and half
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 ounces gruyere cheese, cubed
- 8 ounces (1 bag) fresh spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves (about 10 leaves)
- Preheat a large ovenproof skillet to medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the shiitake and saute for 4 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for one minute more. Add the pumpkin, half and half, nutmeg, and a sprinkle of salt to the skillet. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the spinach, the pasta water, and most of the cheese. Stir everything together then turn the heat off the skillet. The spinach should start to wilt immediately.
- Taste the sauce and add salt to your taste.
- Top the skillet with the panko, the rest of the cheese, and the sage leaves. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the panko is just slightly browned. Serve immediately!
- I made this dish in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. If you don't have a skillet large enough, just make the mac in a separate pan, mix the sauce in the pasta pot with the pasta once it's cooked, and transfer everything to a baking dish. Add the panko, bake, and serve!