- 1 pound uncooked macaroni or shell pasta
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 15 ounce can packed pumpkin (not pie filling!)
- 1 16 ounce package shredded Mexican-style four cheese blend
- 4 ounces cream cheese (half of the small Philadelphia package), cut in small pieces (For a lighter option, use 4 ounces Neufchatel cheese instead)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk, almond milk, evaporated (NOT condensed!) milk or heavy cream
- 1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
- 1/4 to 1 teaspoon dried chipotle chili powder to taste
- Salt to taste
- Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and return to the pot. Cover.
- In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and saute the diced onion until translucent but not browned.
- Add the pumpkin to the skillet with the onions and stir over medium heat until warmed through.
- Mix in the shredded cheese and cream cheese into the pumpkin mixture and stir until melted and smooth.
- Use milk product to thin as-needed until the consistency is smooth but not runny. Do not boil.
- Open and drain can of tomatoes and chilies. Stir into the cheese sauce.
- Season with the chipotle powder and salt to taste.
- Add the warm sauce to the reserved pasta and stir until well combined. Serve immediately, or transfer to Crock-Pot set on “warm.” This makes a great pot-luck dish.
- If you prefer a baked mac n cheese: transfer pasta to a greased 3 quart casserole dish. Top with 1/2 cup shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F or until top browns.
- Experiment with spices! For a brighter gold color and more ‘bite’, add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon mustard powder. If you like a traditional chili con carne flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. You can also vary the heat by using different strength tomatoes and chilies, or you can use 1 oz jar of salsa instead at your desired heat level.