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Pumpkin Sage Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

© by Michael Le

Cooking the pasta in milk, without draining it, emulsifies the pasta starch and sauce together, resulting in a smooth cheese sauce. The sauce starts out looking quite thin, but after you stir in the cheese and let it rest, it thickens up to the perfect consistency.


  • Unsalted Butter 4 Tbs
  • Fresh Whole Sage Leaves 20 to 25
  • All-Purpose Flour 3 Tbs
  • Whole Milk 2 cups
  • Garlic Powder 1 tsp
  • Dry Mustard Powder ½ tsp
  • Onion Powder ½ tsp
  • Dried Ziti or Macaroni 8 oz
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese 2¼ cups
  • Canned Pure Pumpkin Puree ¾ cup
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper


  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Finely Grated Parmigiano

Cook it

  1. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan or pot over medium heat. Add the sage leaves, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until crisp, 5 to 15 seconds, depending on the size of the leaves. Remove the crisp leaves to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour into the melted butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is a blond colour and the mixture is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the milk in a thin stream, continuing to whisk until any lumps are gone and the sauce is smooth and quite thick, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining 1 cup of milk along with 2½ cups of water, as well as the garlic, mustard, and onion powders. Add the uncooked ziti and stir until wisps of steam come up, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low. Let cook, gently bubbling, until the ziti is tender and the sauce starts to thicken, 9 to 10 minutes. (It will still be quite saucy at this point — adding the cheese will thicken it up.)
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese and pumpkin puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let stand for a couple of minutes; the sauce will thicken as it rests. Crumble the crispy sage leaves on top, and serve hot.
Excerpted from That Noodle Life by Stephanie and Michael Le, photos by Michael Le. Workman Publishing © 2022.