Pumpkin, Brie and Bacon Pasta Bake

by Kelly on October 26, 2011

When it was announced that this month’s 5 Star Makeover would be tailgate food, immediately I thought of doing a take on Mac and Cheese. It’s one of those perfect tailgate foods in my mind because it can easily be stretched to serve more people than its original intent, which is perfect if your tailgate attracts more company than expected. It’s also a great dish for a makeover challenge because it offers up almost a blank canvas that can be dressed up and innovated upon with whatever flavors strike your fancy.

In my case, that flavor was pumpkin.

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I have to say, for someone who’s never gotten giddy about the return of the Pumpkin Latte and has a “take it or leave it” attitude about pumpkin pie, I’m definitely warming up to it.

This hearty dish combines, among other things, pumpkin, Brie and Bacon for a sumptuous sauce that is the perfect marriage of sweet and savory, not to mention rich and creamy.  It’s a slight nod to some Pumpkin Bacon Wontons I made last February.  I so loved the way all the flavors came together that they served as my loose inspiration for this dish.

Pumpkin, Brie and Bacon Pasta Bake-3

In fact, if you like the sweet and savory together, this is a great dish.  It has  just a bit of brown sugar in it, which balances out the umami from the bacon and the worcestershire sauce quite nicely.  Add in a few spices for good measure – in this case, the expected cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as some mustard powder and cayenne for the slightest of kicks – and you get layers and layers of flavor.  Combine that with a crispy top of panko and Parmesan and you’ve got the kind of dish I finish, by myself, in its entirety in two days.  (Yes, I really did that.)
Pumpkin, Brie and Bacon Pasta Bake-2
But let’s be clear about one thing, this is not a pasta dish in the style of Deceptively Delicious, by which I mean the flavor of the pumpkin is in no way hidden.  In fact, I’d venture to say it’s the main attraction in this dish with the Brie playing more of a supportive role.  The Brie lends creaminess, a bit of depth, and of course, contributes to the savoriness, but in a subtle way.  And even though am an unapologetic cheeseaholic, I didn’t mind this fact.  In fact, it’s the kind of dish that could make me a pumpkin lover out of me after all.

Pumpkin, Brie and Bacon Pasta Bake-1

Pumpkin, Brie and Bacon Pasta Bake
Loosely inspired by this recipe
Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side

Ingredients:

-Cooking spray
-1/2 pound campanelle pasta
-2 slices of bacon
-1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 ½ cups pureed pumpkin
-1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon cayenne
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
-1/2 cup half and half
-6 ounces Brie, rind removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
-3/4 cups bread crumbs (I prefer homemade or panko)
-1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method:

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until just al dente. (You’ll want to be careful not to overcook it as it will continue to cook in the oven in the sauce.)

Lightly spray a skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat with cooking spray. Cook bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon from skillet with slotted spoon, reserving about one tablespoon of drippings in skillet. (If drippings are less than a tablespoon, add olive oil to make up the difference.) Drain bacon on paper towels. Crumble and set aside.

Return pan to the heat and add onions. Saute until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the pumpkin through half and half. Stir well to combine and cook until the mixture is heated through and some of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Brie and crumbled bacon. Cook until the Brie has melted and is well combined. Mix together the pasta and pumpkin mixture.

Toss together the butter, bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano and set aside. Grease a baking dish with cooking spray (Mine was a 14″ oval that held about 3.75 quarts). Spoon the pumpkin mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 20 minutes. Serve.

Haven’t had your fill of pumpkin and other squash pastas yet?  Check out some of these other delicious versions:

Pumpkin Pasta Bake from Cake Batter and Bowl

Roasted Butternut  and Sweet Potato Whole Wheat Lasagna from How Sweet It Is

Creamy Stovetop Pumpkin Mac and Cheese from Healthy Food For Living (As posted on the Key Ingredient blog)

My Delicata Squash and Parsnip Baked Pasta

My Penne with Acorn Squash and Ham Hock

P.S. I am admittedly not the hugest of football fans, though I did pull out the purple linens and baking dish in honor of the Minnesota Vikings, my hometown team.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria (District Chocoholic) October 26, 2011 at 8:42 am

Um, OK, I thought my butternut squash-cheddar sauce was good. And then you went with brie and pumpkin and the leftovers waiting for me at lunch seem incredibly inadequate.

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Sprigs of Rosemary October 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

Impressive! What a terrific way to dial up good ol’ mac ‘n cheese. Love the spices you added to the pumpkin. And brie! Well, happens to be my fave.

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Lauren @ Healthy Food For Living October 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

Pumpkin and brie sounds like a fantastic combination, and I’ve been craving comforting baked pasta dishes now that the weather has turned colder. There’s even snow in the forecast for Boston! This would warm me up in no time =).

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Trix October 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I am completely ambivalent about pumpkin in sweets, but in a savory dish like this – that’s another story! Love this version of mac and cheese, and I too would have eaten it all in 2 days – or less.

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Kelly October 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Victoria – Nonsense! I don’t disregard one cheese in favor of another. I’m fairly confident your butternut squash and cheddar version was delicious.

Sprigs of Rosemary – Thank you. Brie is one of my favorites as well.

Lauren – I know, me too. I LOVE baked pasta dishes. I swear I lived almost exclusively off them when I had just graduated from college and I’ve been missing them lately. I still have half a box of pasta left so I think another is in order. I’ve been craving a pasta version of spinach artichoke dip. (Though this cooking light recipe – http://pink-apron.com/2008/11/artichoke-spinach-and-feta-stuffed-shells/ comes close and is fantastic.)

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sophia October 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

LEt me confess something: I’m in the middle of class right now, and the moment I saw your pumpkin/brie/bacon mac & cheese bake, my stomach growled so loudly the people behind me started snickering.

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Cara October 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I’m glad you’ve warmed up to pumpkin because you possess serious talent in using it!

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shannon October 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

love the idea of pumpkin and brie!! yum…

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5 Star Foodie October 27, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Yummy pasta bake so great with pumpkin and love that you used brie here too.

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angela@spinachtiger October 28, 2011 at 10:05 am

Love the added touch of cayenne pepper. Great way to use pumpkin.

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Tanantha October 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Pumpkin!!
It’s good to have pumpkin flavor when it’s in season. Baked mac and cheese is a classic dish but I like that you add pumpkin and brie! Brie is my favorite cheese. I made pumpkin spaghetti before and I liked it a lot. I have no doubt in this dish!

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Maya October 29, 2011 at 1:24 am

You can’t really go wrong with pasta, pumpkin and Brie in one recipe title! I’ve been falling in love with savory pumpkin dishes too lately, so it’s good to see another creative way of using pumpkin like this.

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Kelly October 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Sophia- Awww. I’m flattered. That is the best kind of compliment.

Cara- Thanks. :). I try. I still haven’t done much in the way of desserts but I’m definitely trying my share of savory pumpkin and squash dishes.

Shannon & 5 star foodie- Thanks. 🙂

Angela – I do too. It really balances out the sweetness and richness.

Tanatha – It’s definitely a favorite of mine as well and I’m pleased how yummy it is with pumpkin.

Maya – Thanks for the comment. I agree with you. Even for a non-pumpkin fanatic I’m slowly becoming a fan.

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Lynn October 30, 2011 at 1:26 am

Ohhhhhhhhh Kelly! I had some brave friends over for an all- pumpkin dinner. Every dish includung the beverage (marshmallow vodka with Fulton’s Harvest pumpkin pie liqueur) was pumpkin based. I served your Pumpkin, Brie, and bacon Pasta Bake as the main course. It was AWESOME! No, not quick (I should have prepped the day before….next time!)but man, was it GOOD!!!!!! I doubled the recipe (too much work for just 4 servings..leftovers will be frozenfor yummy weeknight dinners) and eveyone loved it. I never cook with bacon, I always omit or substitute, but I followed your recipe to the letter, and honestly, the bacon was the pivotal ingredient that made this dish AMAZING! many thanks!

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Marisa October 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm

This looks so delicious! Pumpkin and mac & cheese are two of my favorite things so I can see how this could easily be polished off in 2 days!

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Kelly October 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Lynn – An all pumpkin dinner! That is fantastic. I love the sound of the cocktail especially. How smart to double it and make ahead. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it. I definitely agree with you that bacon is the pivotal ingredient. It adds so much depth of flavor and savoriness to the dish and really balances out the sweetness. Thanks again for the feedback!

Marisa – I agree, it was very delicious. Polishing it off in two days was WAY too easy.

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deana November 1, 2011 at 7:48 am

Great combination, Kelly…. love the pumpkin pasta idea since pumpkin ravioli is one of my favorite fall pastas. This would be perfect for a cold fall tailgate party and would warm anyone right up… deliciously!

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Kelly November 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Deana – Thanks. I concur with the pumpkin ravioli. I’m thinking that may have to be next, although the filling from my wontons already seems like it could double well as a ravioli filling, but it’s always fun to challenge myself to try something new.

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Lori Lynn November 3, 2011 at 5:22 am

Hi Kelly – ooh, a super creative take on mac n cheese. Sounds delicious. Great idea for the Tailgate Party!
LL

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