Fancy Mac and Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin: Thanksgiving for Vegetarians

stuffed pumpkinWith the holidays coming everyone is focused on the turkey as the holiday table showstopper. But what happens if you are a vegetarian? Or if some of your guests are meat adverse? They deserve a fancy dinner too! Enter the fancy mac and cheese stuffed mushroom. Pumpkin, one of the quintessential holiday staples is elevated from the dessert table, stuffed with all things cheesy, indulgent, delicious and good, and made into a gorgeous centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table. Even better, this dish can be fully assembled ahead of time, then baked to order. Feel free to use your favorite mac and cheese recipe for this or follow mine below!

Arugula, Pepita and Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin

serves 6 as a main entree, 10 as a side.

  • 1, 10lb heirloom or baking pumpkin
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1lb fresh mushrooms (I used a mixture of cremini, shiitake and baby bella), finely chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup panko
  • 1lb gemelli pasta
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 5 oz baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup toasted pepitas
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Prepare pumpkin. Cut a hole around the stem of the pumpkin then scoop out the stringy insides and discard. Rub 2 teaspoons of salt all over the inside flesh of the pumpkin, and invert the pumpkin onto a plate. This will draw out extra moisture from the flesh so that the filling doesn’t get soupy while it roasts. Let pumpkin sit upside down until ready to stuff.
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and saute until the mushrooms begin to release water. Turn heat up to medium high and cook, stirring, until mushrooms brown and begin to stick to the pan. Deglaze pan with white wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up all the brown bits. Continue to cook until liquid is almost gone. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl and set aside.
  1. Wipe out pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt over medium heat. Add panko and toast, stirring frequently until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  1. Start a large pot of salted water boiling for your pasta. Cook pasta until al dente then drain and add to the bowl with the mushrooms.
  1. Wipe out pan the panko was toasted in. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter and melt over medium low heat. Sprinkle the flour, cayenne and mustard powder over the butter and whisk rapidly to combine. Allow mixture to cook for 1 minute then slowly drizzle in the milk, whisking rapidly and constantly to eliminate lumps. Turn the heat up to medium and allow the mixture to come to a simmer, whisking frequently. Simmer the milk mixture for 1-2 minutes, until it thickens a bit. Continue to cook, adding in shredded cheeses by the handful. Whisk constantly until the cheese melts completely into the sauce. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  1. Add the cheese sauce, arugula and pepitas to the bowl with the mushrooms and pasta and mix to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Place the drained pumpkin on a rimmed sheet pan and blot the inside dry with paper towels. Fill the pumpkin with macaroni and cheese leaving 1-inch of space between the top of the pumpkin. Sprinkle with panko. Set pumpkin top on pan next to the pumpkin.
  1. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin. A 10lb pumpkin will take about 45 minutes. Check for doneness starting at 30 minutes by piercing the side of the pumpkin with a paring knife. When it slides in easily it is done. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and cut into wedges for serving.

Recipe and photos property of Sarah Arel

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