This weekend the leaves were brilliant. Truly breathtaking. Leaf-peepers are leaving Manhattan in droves to look at the leaves in my town. I’m a little anti-social under the best of circumstances, so this weekend I decided to stay in my hermitage with my cats (Pickle and Stanley) and my two remaining pumpkins, Curly and Moe. Rather than face the peepers, I got crazy in the kitchen.
Curly, a beautiful sugar pumpkin, got roasted and stuffed with (gluten-free, vegan) macaroni and cheese. Between my veganism and my partner’s celiac, we have to get pretty creative in the kitchen to make something we can both enjoy. But I love a good challenge, so we eat pretty damn well. If you want to make this and use glutenous macaroni and non-vegan cheese, knock yourself out. You could stuff a pumpkin with Kraft Macaroni & Cheese if you wanted to (though I would mourn the wasted pumpkin), or definitely better, Annie’s Organic Mac ‘N Cheese (our editor, Starre, swears by the stuff).
Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Stuffed with Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
Note: This is kind of time consuming (90 minutes of oven time, give or take) so it’s definitely not a last-minute dinner idea. However, it is ideally suited to hiding in one’s hermitage with cats. The oven heat even warms the hermitage, which the cats enjoy.
1 small-ish sugar pumpkin (Curly weighs about three pounds)
1/2 lb of gluten free pasta*
1 tsbp of salt
4 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
4 cups of non-dairy milk (I used coconut, soy or rice would be fine)
1 bag of Daiya Cheddar (or vegan cheese of your choice, but Daiya is the gold freakin’ standard for vegan cheddar, in my opinion)
1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
4 tbsp of Sriracha (or hot sauce of your choice)
*Vegans! Pay attention when buying gluten-free pasta; a lot of them have egg!
The only new ingredient for me was that jasmine rice pasta, which is actually not something I’d recommend– it was too fragile.
Move the oven rack to the bottom. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top of the pumpkin off, about 1/2 an inch from the stem. Scoop out the guts. Rinse and save the seeds for roasting!
Put the top back on the pumpkin, stick the whole thing in a roasting pan and put in the oven for 45 minutes. This is a good time to take your seeds, toss them with some coconut oil and salt, then spread them on a tray and roast them for 10 minutes in the oven (since it’s already on!)
Meanwhile, heat a skillet on the stove top. (I love my cast-iron, personally. Cast-iron skillets are great for vegetarians/vegans– you get a little iron added to anything you cook! They’re a little high maintenance –you have to oil them and hand-wash them with little to no soap– but they become beautifully non-stick (without unhealthy Teflon) and they get a gorgeous sear on everything. And you work your biceps hauling them from the cabinet to the stove.)
Put a pot of hot water with a tablespoon of salt on the back burner while you prepare your sauce. Prepare your pasta of choice according to instructions. Cook the pasta al dente; this is very important!
Pumpkin and seeds in the oven.
Over medium heat, drizzle your olive oil (you can use other oil, but I love the rich nuttiness of olive; coconut would be great, too). Slowly sprinkle in the flour, whisk until incorporated. The flour should get slightly browned, but whisk constantly to ensure that it does not burn. Slowly add the coconut milk, still whisking. We are really building the whisking muscles.
Once the milk/flour are incorporated and the milk is warmed, sprinkle the Daiya into the milk. Still whisking! Perhaps enlist a friend to trade off whisking duties. Seriously, if you don’t add ingredients (particularly the milk) slowly and whisk continuously, the sauce will turn into a big glop.
Whisk until the cheese is melted, then sprinkle in the nutritional yeast and Sriracha. 4 tablespoons of Sriracha is approximately medium-heat to my palate, but I go completely insane when adding hot sauce to my macaroni. You can skip it (ya big baby) or you can adjust it to suit your palate.
Some time in all that whisking, your pasta will probably be cooked. Drain it and incorporate it into the sauce. Another benefit to using a cast-iron skillet: those puppies are HUGE, so you can dump 1/2 a lb of pasta into them and not slop too much sauce onto your stove top while stirring. Minimizes cleanup.
Once your pumpkin has roasted, fill it with macaroni. Eat any macaroni that doesn’t fit, because it’s vegan and has no calories. HA! Just kidding; it probably has a lot of calories, but I don’t really care. It’s delicious. Whatever. Pumpkin! Don’t judge me.
Anyway. Take the stuffed pumpkin, stick the top back on, shove that back into the oven for another 40 minutes, taking the lid off for the last 10 minutes to get the top all crispy.
After taking it out of the oven, carefully stir the macaroni and scrape down the insides of the pumpkin as you do so; it gets the delicious roasted pumpkin incorporated into the pasta.
Serves two normal people, if you want to share, which you won’t. Because it’s a macaroni and cheese pumpkin for god’s sake!!!
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All images by Veronica Goin.