The Ultimate Holiday Dish: Baked Macaroni and Cheese in A Pumpkin
This recipe, baked inside the pumpkin—a trick inspired by Dorie Greenspan and Ruth Reichl, both famous for their stuffed-pumpkin recipes (among other things)—simply knocked our socks off with flavor and a stylish yet homey presentation. Here we use Fontina and Gruyère, two old-school cheeses that can be found almost anywhere and are well known for both their gorgeous flavors and melting capabilities. The cheeses are flexible here, though, so you can use whatever you've got on hand. You can use all Fontina, all Gruyère, or even use all cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, Swiss cheese, or any combination thereof. I've made this dish with half Jarlsberg and half Monterey Jack, and it was incredible. Garrett once made it with aged cheddar - whatever they had handy at Trader Joe's - along with chorizo and chipotle pepper. It was a show-stopper.
To prepare the macaroni the day before: shred your cheese, cook your pasta and sausage, then combine and stash in a sealed container in the refrigerator. A few hours before showtime, pre-bake your pumpkin, drop in the macaroni, and finish the dish in the oven while the turkey is resting.
Prep Time 20minutes
Cook Time 1hour30minutes
Total Time 1hour50minutes
Author Stephanie Stiavetti
1wholesugar pumpkinor other sweet variety (not a carving pumpkin), about 5 pounds
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4poundmild Italian pork sausage
5ouncesFontinacut into 1/4-inch cubes
2ouncesGruyèrecut into 1/4-inch cubes
1teaspoonchopped fresh rosemary
1teaspoonchopped fresh thyme
1teaspoonchopped fresh sage
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Cut a circle from the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle, the way you would cut open a pumpkin to make a jack-o’-lantern, and set aside.
Scoop out the seeds and strings as best you can. Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin, pop the top back on it, place it on a rimmed baking dish (since the pumpkin may leak or weep a bit), and bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. If the sausages are in their casings, remove the meat and discard the casings. Crumble the sausage meat into small chunks and cook until lightly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Discard the drippings, or save for gravy or what have you.
Also while the pumpkin bakes, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process.
In a bowl, toss together the Fontina, Gruyère, sausage, pasta, scallions, and herbs.
Once the pumpkin is done baking, take it out of the oven and fill it with the macaroni and cheese. Pour the cream over the filling. Place the top back on the pumpkin and bake for 1 hour, taking the top off for the last 15 minutes so the cheese on top of the filling can properly brown. If the top cream still seems a bit too wobbly and liquid, give it another 10 minutes in the oven. The cream may bubble over a bit, which is fine.
If the pumpkin splits while baking, as occasionally happens, be thankful you set it in a rimmed baking dish and continue to bake as normal.
Allow the pumpkin to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Be careful moving the dish, as the pumpkin may be fragile. You can serve this dish two ways: Cut it into sections and serve them, or just scoop out the insides with scrapings of the pumpkin flesh for each serving. Either way is just dandy. Salt and pepper to taste.
Alternative cheeses: Fontina and Gruyère are widely available and are best used for this recipe, but feel free to try your favorite cheese. We particularly like Valley Ford’s Estero Gold or its Highway 1 Fontina, as well as Roth Käse’s MezzaLuna Fontina. If you want to try something radical, a creamy blue cheese like Buttermilk Blue or Cambozola will do nicely too.Wine pairings: white Rhône Valley blends, Viognier, oaky Chardonnay, champagne.Additional pairings for the cheese: apples, toasted walnuts, toasted hazelnuts.