Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Chicken Sausage, al fresco style

I can’t believe it’s already our THIRD al fresco Tuesday! October is flying by we’re just getting started with the fall recipes. This time, I’m making chicken faster by using fully cooked al fresco chicken sauces right in my baked bake and cheese. It’s a great way to add in delicious all-natural flavor and protein. The asiago and red pepper sausages work so well with the pumpkin sauce.

alfresco

Okay, I get it, pumpkin is WAY overplayed. Well, not yet. I don’t see a lot of pumpkin macaroni and cheese. I have no idea why because pumpkin and cheese were meant to be. The starchiness from the pumpkin also makes it perfect for thickening a cheese sauce without adding excess butter and flour. Yes, please. I like to keep my meals a little leaner during the week so I can really indulge in some treats on the weekend!

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Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Chicken Sausage

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

16 ounces’ whole wheat penne pasta

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups milk

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 can (15 ounces) of pumpkin puree

1 package of al fresco roasted pepper and asiago chicken sausages, cut in ½ inch slices

2 red peppers, roasted and finely chopped

¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

finely chopped parsley for topping (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and gather all ingredients and equipment needed. Cook the penne according to the package directions.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Melt butter then add flour, forming a roux. Add milk and bring to a boil then down to a slow simmer, milk will begin to thicken (around 5 minutes). Stir occasionally to avoid milk from burning on the sides and bottom. Once the sauce has thickened, reduce heat to low.

Mix in the thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and pumpkin puree until well incorporated. Stir in ½ cup of mozzarella and ½ cup of cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat. Stir in the roasted red peppers, al fresco chicken sausages, and cooked penne pasta.

In a greased 9×13 baking dish, add the pasta and sauce. Top with all of the remaining cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley if desired.

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