This pumpkin pancetta mac n’ cheese is an easy to make, autumn-inspired, stick to the ribs kind of family meal, packed with a ton of flavour!
Take traditional elbow macaroni and coat with a creamy cheese sauce made with earthy pumpkin puree, smoky pancetta, caramelized onions, sweet mozzarella, and a hint of nutmeg and thyme.
My kids love mac n’ cheese (doesn’t every kid?) but I know they thoroughly enjoy (i.e, forks scraping the bowl, eating in silence) when I switch up the recipe from time to time. What better way to incorporate the flavours of fall into a recipe than with smooth, creamy pumpkin!
The combination of the sweet caramelized onions and salty pancetta heighten the flavour of the mild, cheesy sauce garnished with a touch of earthy nutmeg and thyme.
(Yields 3-4 toddler portions or serves 2 adults)
2 cups cooked elbow macaroni or pasta of choice
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
1/2 cup cubed pancetta
1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup milk of choice
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup shredded mozzarella or cheese of choice
1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino, grated
In a large saucepan bring 5-6 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 tbs. sea salt then add the pasta to the pan. Cook according to package instructions or until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente (as the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce).
In the meantime, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat for about 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook on medium-low for 5-7 minutes or until translucent. Add the pancetta and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the pancetta becomes slightly translucent.
Immediately remove the onions and pancetta from the pan and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
Return the pot the burner and add the butter and flour. Whisk vigorously until combined and uniform (but not clumpy). Add the milk, spices, pumpkin puree, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese and cook on medium heat, whisking often, for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
Return the pancetta and onions to the pan. Once the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander then add directly into the pot with the sauce and stir to coat (and add more Parmesan cheese ,if desired!).
Serve warm garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper, if desired.
Consume within 2 days of preparation. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
When reheating, add a few tablespoons of milk to help melt the cheese and add creaminess to the mac n’ cheese.