Friday, November 8, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Macaroni and Cheese with Pumpkin, Kale, and Sausage

From The 'Lush'ious Baker

Just because Halloween is over does not mean that my love affair with pumpkin has ended!  My recipe this week for a pumpkin-sauced macaroni and cheese (a modified version of the one found here) is a variation on the pasta/pumpkin/sausage/kale theme I posted about a month ago.  It takes a little more time and effort to make and has more ingredients, but the result is so worth these extras!  I especially love the seasonings, which complement both the sweet and savory sides of the pumpkin.  The final baking adds a toasted crunchiness to the top that also elevates the flavor.  I reduced the amount of pumpkin from a full can to half of the can because I made another recipe that used the rest, but if you don't need to reserve any of the pumpkin purée by all means use the entire can.  I also replaced the onion with a bell pepper simply because I had the pepper but not an onion, so use either one, or both if you wish.  Try this recipe when you have a little more time and you won't be disappointed!

Macaroni and Cheese with Pumpkin, Kale, and Sausage

2 T. oil
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I used sweet turkey sausage)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 chopped canned chipotle in adobo sauce, plus 1 T. sauce
5 oz. container pre-washed baby kale*
2 1/2 C. low-fat milk
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 T. flour dissolved in 2 T. water
1 C. pumpkin purée (about 1/2 can)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 C. (8 oz.) shredded cheese, such as Cheddar or Monterey Jack
12-16 oz. medium pasta shells, cooked and drained (I used whole grain)
3/4 C. dry breadcrumbs
1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to crumble the meat, until no pink remains, about seven minutes.  Remove the sausage and add the diced bell pepper.  Saute over medium low heat for a few minutes until it starts to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in the chipotle and adobo sauce, then the baby kale, and cook until the kale is wilted.  Mix in the cooked sausage.

After cooking the pasta, remove it from the pot and add a little oil to it keep it from sticking together.  Combine the milk, paprika, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the pot.  Cook over medium-high heat until just below a boil (bubbling at the edges of the pot).  Add the flour mixture and cook, stirring, until the milk thickens.  Turn the burner to low.  Add the pumpkin and Worcestershire sauce and stir until smooth, then do the same with the cheese.  Stir in the pasta until completely coated with sauce, then add the sausage mixture.

Pour the pasta mixture into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan and spread evenly.  Combine the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes until the Parmesan cheese begins to turn golden-brown at the edges of the pan.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.  Serves 6-8.

*Our local Kroger store had prepackaged baby kale, which looks like a cross between kale and spinach, either of which can be substituted if you cannot find baby kale.  Regular kale will require some extra preparation and cooking time, which is detailed in the original recipe.

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