Even though I may work for a TV station, I don’t watch all that much TV – at least not broadcast. I’ve never watched Dancing with the Stars, or Scandal, or NCIS, or Parks and Recreation, or any other show on the big networks. And since I also don’t watch Food Network (which I’ve previously mentioned here), you might be wondering why I even have a TV in the first place (I actually went a few months when I first moved to Charlotte without any cable at all – I just watched my DVDs). The TV shows I do watch include Roseanne and Jeopardy, among others (and of course, football, but that goes without saying). And, if we’re being honest, I’m just going to throw it out there and admit that I watch “In the Kitchen With David” on QVC on some Sundays and Wednesdays.
A long time ago when I was still in elementary school, I remember staying home sick with my mom one day. It was Christmas time, so we had the tree set up and it was a little chilly outside, so I was bundled up in blankets on the couch while my mom was in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies and cleaning up. I’m pretty sure I was flipping through the channels and I saw something like, “Santa’s Workshop,” and stopped and it happened to be on one of the home shopping shows. Jackpot. For a 9 year old, seeing nothing but toys on TV was a thrill of a lifetime. It seems like such a silly memory – and it really doesn’t have that much to do with watching the home shopping channel, but I do remember it fondly. Getting to spend the whole day with my mom and watching what she did while we were normally at school, staying in my pjs all day, and just getting to be on the cozy couch with our Christmas tree all lit up was just so much fun, even if I was sick.
Since then, I occasionally turn on one of those shopping channels, especially during the holiday season, and for whatever reason I always remember that day off from school with my mom. I’ve never ordered anything – but, I do like to have In the Kitchen with David on Sundays when I’m cooking. It’s either that or Roseanne (there’s a marathon every Sunday!). Anyway, sometime last year, David Venable (who is from Charlotte) made these Stuffed shells with a pumpkin bacon sauce, and I think I ran to the store that night to pick up the ingredients to make my own. I couldn’t find stuffed shells, so I settled on making a macaroni and cheese and came up with this. I’ve made it quite a few times since it freezes so well and is great for quick dinners. Rosemary is a pretty potent herb, so err on the side of caution when using it. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re a fan, add a little to start – you can always add more on the individual servings later.
Pumpkin, Bacon, and Rosemary Mac and Cheese
(Adapted from David Venable)
5 strips of bacon
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4-1 cup shredded gouda (NOT smoked) or fontina cheese (plus a little leftover for the top)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (make sure that it’s not pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2-1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3-4 cups of pasta – I used shells, cooked al dente & drained
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large skillet (with sides tall enough to make a sauce in) over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until just under crisp – it will continue to cook in the oven. Remove from pan and chop into small pieces, set aside. In the same pan, remove all but 3 Tbsps of the bacon fat. Add the minced onion and cook until translucent. Add the flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes so that the flour taste cooks out. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then add the cheese, a little at a time, whisking until melted and all fully-incorporated and the sauce has thickened. Add the pumpkin, rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Bring back up to a simmer and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is thick and smooth.
Remove the pan from the heat and fold in the bacon. In a large bowl, place the pasta in and pour the cheese sauce over the top. Gently fold the sauce into the pasta until fully combined. Pour the pasta into a baking dish and top with shredded gouda cheese and a little rosemary, if desired. Cover and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, and then uncovered for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbly and browned. Serve immediately.