Pumpkin is a squash—a giant, orange squash. It’s a little disheartening to think that such an American institution is second cousin to zucchini, but there it is. Although the kind you make Jack O’Lanterns out of makes lousy eating, small sugar pumpkins are excellent— sweet and rich. They are, however, labor-intensive. Enter, canned pumpkin, arguably the best canned vegetable there is. You get consistent, smooth, flavorful purée, with no slicing, scraping or baking.
Besides being versatile and tasty, pumpkin’s also good for you. It’s rich in fiber and beta-carotene and has almost no fat. And all that nutrition will cost you only 42 calories in a half-cup serving.
When you think “pumpkin,” you usually think “pie,” but that’s not all it’s good for. Here are some quick and easy uses for canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
3 cups mostaccioli or penne pasta, uncooked
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups 2 percent reduced fat milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Comte or Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain.
3. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps. Add pumpkin puree and mix well. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, salt, nutmeg and black pepper.
4. When cheese is melted combine with drained noodles. Pour into baking pan.
Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serves 8.
Recipe by Jill Melton.
Per serving: 411 calories, 19g fat, 59mg chol., 21g prot., 38g carbs., 2g fiber, 302mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn