As I stroll through the aisles of Trader Joe’s with a heavy basket in hand, the artfully illustrated chalkboard displays with the colors of fall pique my interest. It’s that time of year again when new autumnal items hit the shelves for a limited time, and people just can’t seem to help but buy out all the bright orange pumpkin products. I can’t blame them, though—I, too, get excited every year when my favorite fall items make a return, complementing my fall festivities with pumpkin-shaped cookies, cinnamon-sugar donuts, spiced tea, candy apples, and other seasonal essentials.
That being said, Trader Joe’s fans are loyal to their products, and for good reason. If you’ve been on the hunt for savory fall flavors but can’t seem to get to the store in time, this recipe is for you. This comforting sweet potato mac and cheese will fix your hankering for that butternut squash mac and cheese that seems to be sold out whenever you’re in the store. Even better, it’s lovingly homemade by you with real ingredients, making it a fun fall activity, and not to mention tastier!
Additionally, sweet potatoes level up the basic dish, adding another layer of depth to the flavor to tie it all together. Creamy and tangy, with a hint of sweetness, this recipe will add a sophisticated fall twist to the classic you know and love while still being rich and satisfying—a warm hug for the taste buds. There is nothing more fulfilling or rewarding than preparing this mac and cheese and holding a warm bowl in your hands on a brisk fall day, savoring each soft, cheesy bite of noodles. It’s also a great alternative if you’re sick of the pumpkin trend. This fall, spice up your basic mac and add a wholesome sweet potato to the delectably gooey pot of goodness. It takes a fair bit of prep, but the cheese pull will make it all worth it.
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups milk of your choice
- 1½ cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, or a blend of cheeses of your preference
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet with a ½ tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt, and bake for about an hour, or until soft and tender. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. While the noodles cook for about 8 minutes, or until al dente, coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and garlic, and mix in the flour for about a minute. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking. Cook until the sauce mixture is steaming and thick, but not boiling. Then, add the sweet potato to the saucepan. Depending on your preferred consistency, you can mash the sweet potato into the mixture, or use a blender, food processor, or an immersion blender. It should be smooth, resembling a cheese sauce. At this time, you can also add thawed frozen peas or spinach for more veggies, if desired. Add the cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper to the sauce. Once well mixed, add the macaroni. Stir until the noodles are evenly coated, and everything is combined.
Topping with breadcrumbs makes for a crispy, irresistible topping, but this is optional as well. Finish off the mac and cheese by topping with cheese and baking it in the oven at 400℉ for about 3 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!
Adapted from Eating Well’s Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese Recipe