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Healthier whole wheat pumpkin macaroni and cheese is kicked up a notch with the addition of bacon and caramelized onions. Win-win!

Overhead view of pumpkin mac and cheese in a rectangular blue stoneware casserole on marble counter. Text overlay reads "Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with bacon & caramelized onions."

Does pumpkin stop being cool immediately after Thanksgiving? Not in my book. Especially when it’s involved with one of my favorite things — macaroni and cheese.

Throw in bacon and caramelized onions and we’re pretty much in heaven here. Caramelized onions, you guys! I think they definitely make my list of all-time favorite foods. I could eat them on their own. Give me a fork and I’m all set. Heck, maybe I’ll just use my fingers.

Side view of small white square dish holding a portion of mac and cheese. Casserole dish with serving spoon is in background.

Another great thing about pumpkin in this recipe is that it gives you the creaminess every good macaroni and cheese recipe needs but without the added fat. Not only does it not add fat, but it’s also lending some great nutrients. Pair it with hearty whole wheat pasta and you’ve basically got health food. If you can look past that pesky totally-worth-the-splurge bacon.

Overhead view of small square dish with mac and cheese, partial casserole dish in background.

I adapted this macaroni and cheese recipe from Erin of Well Plated

I decided to make it for some of my friends who came over for a play date with my kids. Now they won’t come over unless I cook. But I can’t say that I blame them. I ate about as much macaroni and cheese as all of them combined.

For this recipe, I used Pacific Foods Organic Pumpkin Puree and Pacific Foods Chicken Simply Stock, both of which come in Tetra Pak packaging rather than cans. 

Front view of 3 Pacific carton products: Jellied Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Puree, and Simply Chicken Stock.

I love that with the Tetra packaging you don’t get that tinny taste of food that is sometimes found with cans. And I love that when it falls out of my cupboard it won’t break my toes. And it doesn’t fall because it is smartly packaged in a rectangular shape that stacks. For someone who is low on space, this is nearly as (or more) important as the fact that they are recyclable and even if you choose not to recycle, these take up less room in landfills.

Pumpkin is always cool!

Looking for more delicious pumpkin recipes? Try:

 

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions on RachelCooks.com

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

 Healthier whole wheat pumpkin macaroni and cheese is kicked up a notch with the addition of bacon and caramelized onions. Win-win!

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon (4-5 slices)
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • one 16 ounce Tetra Pak container of Pacific Foods Organic Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 13 ounces whole wheat macaroni
  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated or cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place bacon slices in a single layer on lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy. Leave oven on. Remove bacon from oven and place on a paper towel to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.
  2. Meanwhile in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and saute until onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook until caramelized and brown in color, at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. When finished caramelizing, place in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking continuously. While whisking, add stock, milk, and pumpkin, nutmeg, cayenne, and dried mustard. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese until melted.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta as directed on package.
  5. Drain pasta and return to pan. Pour cheese sauce over pasta and fold in onions and chopped bacon.
  6. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour pasta into this dish. In a small bowl, combine pecorino cheese, Panko breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon olive oil until everything is well coated with oil. Sprinkle evenly over the pasta. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let rest 5 minutes prior to serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 of 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 649Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 832mgCarbohydrates: 69gFiber: 11gSugar: 10gProtein: 33g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: Love this. Definitely a winner.
Husband’s take: He was lucky enough to get some leftovers (my friends eat like birds, seriously) and he loves it as well!
Changes I would make: None are necessary at all!
Difficulty: Moderate — only because of slightly increased prep time and orchestrating everything. Read the recipe through before beginning and you’ll be all set!