Comfort Food Makeover Part 2

It’s definitely feeling more like comfort food season here in New England. While we keep raking leaves in our driveway, they just keep falling! So we really wanted something warm, comforting, and satisfying for dinner the other night to soothe leaf-related frustrations.

Mac & Cheese is such a classic American comfort food dish. It’s warm, creamy, and soft. Yet I’ve been seeing some fancied up versions on many a restaurant menu (Phil had Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese recently!) so I thought it would be cool to make a healthier, gluten-free version.

This one is super creamy and incorporates two of my favorite fall/winter flavors: pumpkin and sage. I decided to bake ours at the last minute to get a little bit of crispy edge on top, but it wasn’t necessary. If you’re short on time, this works great all mixed together once the pasta is cooked.

I used Lundberg brown rice pasta for this dish. Between that and the Tinkyada brand, I don’t feel the need to ever buy wheat pasta again. Phil agrees – we don’t miss that heavy, bloated feeling after eating wheat-based pasta, plus we’re getting some extra nutrients by substituting brown rice instead. Some gluten-free pastas are pretty lackluster – I’d highly recommend steering clear of any corn-based pastas or white rice-based ones. They tend to have a weird texture and fall apart easily once cooked. There are a few quinoa-based pastas that are pretty good too (with an added bonus of some protein) but I’ve been really happy with these brown rice ones so far. The texture is great and they hold up when stirred with some sauce.

I also used a can of organic pumpkin puree and some delicious plain goat cheese (the soft kind). These two, along with some cooking water from the pasta, create that rich, creamy texture that all good Mac & Cheeses have! As for the sage, I used some dried sage, but fresh would be even better. Just make sure you chop it finely before adding it to the recipe.

Enjoy this fall comfort dish as much as we did!

Pumpkin Sage Mac & Goat Cheese

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 15-20 mins

Keywords: bake saute entree gluten-free vegetarian wheat free soy-free nut-free fall winter

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 10 oz brown rice pasta (macaroni NOT required!), cooking water reserved
  • 1 tbsp goat butter or ghee
  • 2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 5 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 can organic pumpkin puree
  • 4 oz. soft goat cheese
  • large handful organic spinach
  • handful fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta but keep the cooking water in a separate bowl.

Optional: preheat the oven to 350F.

Meanwhile, heat up the butter or ghee in a saute pan and add the onion. Cook gently with a pinch of sea salt until softened and slightly golden. Add the garlic and dried sage along with some freshly ground black pepper. Saute over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooked onion and garlic to the drained pasta in it’s cooking pot, as well as the pumpkin puree, goat cheese, and spinach. Stir to incorporate, pouring in the pasta water a little at a time to thin out the sauce created by the pumpkin and cheese. You probably won’t need all of the pasta water, or even half. Just add a little at a time and see how it goes.

You can serve this now with the parsley sprinkled on top, or you can bake it to create a nice crispy top layer. Just pour the pasta mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a nice golden crust has formed. Serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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