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Rach calls this really fun dish pumpkin popper mac. What does that mean? Inspired by the flavors of jalapeno poppers, it's macaroni and cheese made with spicy cheddar cheese and jalapeno + Fresno peppers. To pump up the pumpkin factor, Rach uses pumpkin pasta, but any short cut pasta is fine. She bakes it in a casserole and for the finishing touch, tops it with scallions, cilantro, toasted pumpkin seeds and, of course, pickled jalapeno peppers (it is called popper mac and cheese, after all!). "Dinner is poppin'!" Rach says.

Pro Tip from Rach: This is a great dish to serve at Thanksgiving and all throughout the winter months.  

For more tasty mac and cheese recipes, check out this freezer-to-oven version and Rach’s Apple Mac with Brats


  • 2 pounds kuri squash, pumpkin or butternut squash, diced into bite-sized pieces
  • Non-aerosol cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 Fresno pepper, minced
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar with jalapeno peppers
  • 1 cup shredded yellow cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound short cut pasta
  • Chopped scallions, cilantro, pickled jalapeno peppers and toasted pumpkin seeds, to serve


Serves: 6


Bring water to boil for pasta. 

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Arrange the pumpkin on a foil- and parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray with oil, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and roast the squash or pumpkin 25 minutes, until tender and brown at edges. Switch heat to broil when pumpkin comes out of oven. 

In a large saucepot over medium heat, melt butter, add the peppers, onions, garlic and cumin and soften a minute or two. Add flour and combine, then whisk in milk and thicken sauce. Stir in the cheeses to melt and remove from heat.

Undercook pasta by 2 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain.

Rachael Ray 9" x 13" Ceramic Baker

Rachael Ray 9" x 13" Ceramic Baker

Rachael Ray

Combine pasta with sauce and about ¾ of the roasted pumpkin. Transfer to a baking dish, top with remaining pumpkin and broil to brown a bit. Top with scallions, cilantro, pickled peppers and toasted pumpkin seeds to serve.