Once you make this there’s no turning back. Believe me when I say it’s going to be your new go-to mac and cheese recipe. With creamy, velvety pumpkin and decadent, rich coconut milk, blended together in one pinch with a Vitamix (the best blender, EVER) and shells+sauce popped into the oven, there’s a new, easy way to indulge in mac and cheese! I love using shells or penne in my mac and cheese, but feel free to use elbow macaroni or whatever pasta you’d like— you could also swap in whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.
1 medium pumpkin, peeled, halved, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch cubes (organic canned pumpkin is a-ok! Approx 1 1/2 15 oz cans)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup canned light coconut milk
4 cups pasta shells or penne, cooked and drained
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray, for the pan
Herbed Bread Crumb Topping
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup finely chopped kale leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch pan with coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray.
In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, salt, and coconut milk. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, and making sure the all the pumpkin is submerged. Simmer until the pumpkin is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.
Carefully place the squash mixture in a blender (Vitamix works best!) and purée until velvety smooth.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water, remove all excess liquid.
Spread out the pasta in the prepared pan, and pour the pumpkin–coconut milk purée over the pasta. Gently fold in the nutritional yeast and mix well to combine, ensuring that all noodles are coated. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping.
Remove the mac and cheese from the oven, uncover, and sprinkle the top with the herbed bread-crumb topping, followed by a sprinkle of the remaining 2 tablespoons grated cheese. Transfer to the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until brown and bubbly.