This cozy, sheet pan pumpkin mac and cheese is easy Fall comfort food that the whole family will love. Curly pasta in a creamy, cheesy, pumpkin sauce is layered in a sheet pan and topped with plenty more cheese and buttery breadcrumbs that become perfectly crisp in the oven. Vegetarian and gluten-free friendly.
- 1/2 lb (8 oz) macaroni pasta (such as cavatappi)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- 1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- 2–3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375℉. Butter a (9×13) quarter sheet pan. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and add your pasta. Cook al dente, according to package directions, about 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the panko and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until lightly golden. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat with the rest of the olive oil. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute or two until until fragrant and softened.
- Whisk in the pumpkin, followed by the milk and cream until smooth and creamy.
- Whisk in 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, until melted and creamy. Season well with salt and pepper, to taste.
- When the pasta is ready, reserve about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain the noodles.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and add the pasta to the pumpkin cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Add some of the pasta water to thin the sauce, as needed.
- Layer the pasta onto your prepared sheet pan and top with the remaining cheese and the toasted panko.
- Bake uncovered for 10-12 minutes until the top is golden, melted, and the cheese is bubbling up around the edges. Pop under the broiler for a minute or two to add even more color to the cheese if you want.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and a dusting of Parmesan. Enjoy!!
- Make it gluten-free: simply swap out for your favorite gluten-free pasta. We love the Jovial brown rice based pastas.
- You may not need the pasta water if your sauce is creamy enough, as is. Start with a tablespoon or so at a time and stir until the sauce is creamy and will easily coat the pasta.
- You can use store-bought canned pumpkin puree, or roast your own. Butternut squash puree is another great option.
- If you don’t have access to fresh garlic, you can substitute 1/2 tsp garlic powder.
Keywords: sheet pan pumpkin mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, butternut squash, homemade, panko