This Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Brown Butter, Sage, and Pecan Topping is rich, creamy, and cheesy with a nutty, crunchy topping. It will make any fall meal feel special, and it's a beautiful side dish for any holiday meal.
Alright, so you know those mac and cheese recipes that add pumpkin or butternut squash and use less cheese to lighten it up?
Yeah, this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese isn’t one of those recipes.
With a pound of triple crème Brie I don’t think anyone would point fingers accusing this recipe of being “light”. But sometimes you just need real deal mac and cheese, and it if happens to be super flavorful and have the added bonus of nutrition from pumpkin, then I’m not complaining.
And because this is so rich, a small portion will do you! Have your serving next to a nice big helping of sautéed greens or salad and some lean protein. Or if you serve this as part of a holiday meal don't worry about it because of course calories don't count on holidays (wink, wink!).
What Does Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Taste Like?
Like any great macaroni and cheese recipe, the rich, creamy, cheese sauce takes center stage. Here brie provides ultra-silky smooth texture and nutty flavor, and a hint of cheddar deepens the cheesiness. We use a variety of spices, herbs, and seasonings for complexity. The flavor of pumpkin is subtle, but there, and it also adds color and a very slight sweetness.
The Best Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Recipe
You can subtly taste the pumpkin here, but it blends really well with the savory flavors going on. I don’t say this lightly, but this cheese sauce is incredible. For me though, the brown butter, sage, and pecan topping totally takes the cake (or in this case, the pasta ;) ) and makes this dish.
This side dish recipe is not only special, but also has a very fall/autumn feel to it. It would make a festive addition to your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even New Years table!
How to Make This Ahead
You can make both the topping and the mac and cheese up to 2 days in advance! Store them separately in the fridge until the day you want to serve this mac and cheese.
Let the mac and cheese come to room temperature, and then sprinkle on the topping, and bake at 400F until hot and bubbling.
What's With Brown Butter?
If you haven’t jumped on the brown butter bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for?! With the holiday season swiftly upon us, I can’t think of a better time.
Brown butter adds that special touch to so many things from waffles to cookies, cakes, sauces, soups, and everything in between. And since this is the time of year when we want to impress our guests with fabulous food that’s just a little bit more special than normal, the timing is perfect.
For this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe, we use brown butter in the crunchy topping, and it really kicks the flavor up! And the best part is, brown butter is really easy to make.
How to Brown Butter
- Add butter to a medium skillet and melt over medium-low heat.
- Once melted, continue cooking over low heat until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes.
More Festive Side Dishes
- Festive Christmas Salad Recipe
- Roasted Winter Squash Salad with Spiced Walnuts, Red Currants, and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Low Carb Instant Pot Green Bean Casserole
- Sweet and Savory Quinoa Pilaf with Cranberries, Roasted Butternut, and Toasted Almonds
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Brown Butter, Sage, and Pecan Topping
Brown Butter, Sage, and Pecan Topping:
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese:
- 12 ounces farfalle pasta or another pasta shape you like
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more to grease the dish
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups milk warmed slightly
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional; it's to balance the flavors
- 16 ounces triple crème brie cheese rind trimmed and chopped into chunks
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
- For the topping, add the toasted pecans to a food processor and pulse until they look like bread crumbs. Add the butter to a medium skillet and melt over low heat; once melted, continue cooking over low heat until the butter turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the Panko, salt, and black pepper, and cook until the Panko is browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pecans and sage, and turn off the heat. Set aside.
- For the mac and cheese, cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions; drain and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400F; grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with butter.
- Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large saucepan over medium heat; once hot, add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and flour and cook 1 minute more, stirring frequently.
- Slowly whisk in the milk until lump-free, then whisk in the pumpkin, Worcestershire, Dijon, bay leaf, sweet paprika, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce (if using). Bring to a simmer and then cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the brie and cheddar until completely combined.
- Stir in the pasta and sage and pour the mac and cheese into the prepared dish; sprinkle the topping evenly on top.
- Bake until the casserole is bubbling, about 10 minutes.
- Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can make both the topping and the mac and cheese up to 2 days ahead. Store them separately in the fridge until the day you want to serve this mac and cheese. Let the mac and cheese come to room temperature, and then sprinkle on the topping, and bake at 400F until hot and bubbling.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on November 18, 2014. I updated it with more information on November 16, 2022.