Fiber-rich canned pumpkin get stirred into the cheese sauce, then it gets a little kick from Mexican chorizo (spicy ground pork sausage)—and the whole thing is topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds.
- 1 cup fresh pepitas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon chile powder
- Pinch sugar
- Salt, to taste
- 1 pound macaroni, medium pasta shells, or elbow pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound Mexican chorizo
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) pure pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon (about 1/3 palmful) granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon (about 1/3 palmful) dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- White pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg (no more than 1/8 teaspoon each), to taste
- About 3 cups freshly grated yellow cheddar (3/4 pound)
- 2 ounces (about 1 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Finely chopped chives, for serving
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
For the pepitas, in a bowl, toss pepitas with melted butter, spices, sugar and salt. Spread seeds evenly onto a baking sheet and roast 10-15 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
For the mac & cheese, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until 1 to 2 minutes shy of the package directions.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the oil, one turn of the pan, over medium-high. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the meat is light brown; drain on a paper towel-lined plate
In a large skillet or medium pot, melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, then slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a bubble. Cook, whisking often, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Whisk in the pumpkin. Add the granulated garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, white pepper, and nutmeg; season with salt. Add the cheeses. Stir in a figure-eight motion until the cheeses melt into the sauce, a minute or two.
Scoop out ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta and chorizo to the sauce. Add the cooking water a little at a time if the sauce is too thick. Top with chives and spiced pepitas.