1 lb penne pasta
1 14 oz. can pumpkin purée
1 cup amber beer (I used Long Trail Harvest with good results)
6 tbs butter, divided
3 tbs flour
2 cups 2% milk (or whole if you prefer)
3 cups sharp cheddar
A pinch of all spice
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cayenne
1.5 cups panko
A sprinkling of paprika
A few sprigs of parsley chopped for serving
First salt and boil water for pasta, cook 1 minute less than called for on package for al dente.
While pasta cooks melt 4 tbs butter in a high rimmed frying pan. Once melted add flour and stir together with a wooden spoon. This is the roux, or base / thickener for your sauce. You want to let the flour cook for about 1 minute before adding the cup of beer. The second the flour is added you should be stirring constantly until the addition of the pasta later on.
Once the roux (flour and butter) have cooked for 1 minute or so add the beer,stirring constantly and let reduce to about a half. The beer will thicken and thus begins your delicious sauce. Now add the 2 cups milk, stirring constantly, let thicken for a few minutes. Once the sauce is looking like an Alfredo, add the can of pumpkin stirring until completely incorporated. After that add the 2 cups of shredded cheddar and, yes, stir constantly.
From here you want to add your spices. I say say a pinch as the amount , but this can be determined by your tastes. I like spicy, a lot, so I used about 1/4 tsp or so of cayenne but probably only 1/8 of both all spice and nutmeg, I literally just took a pinch for both. I wanted these to bring out the flavor in the pumpkin without making you think of pumpkin pie, this is a savory dish after all. Finally salt and pepper to taste. Remember you can always add salt but you cannot take it away!
Once the sauce is to your liking add the cooked penne. Stir until sauce is incorporated and pour into a 9×12″ baking pan. Melt 2 tbs butter in a bowl and add bread crumbs, stirring til all crumbs are lightly buttered. Evenly sprinkle 1 cup cheddar cheese over casserole and top with buttered crumbs. Lightly sprinkle with paprika and pop in the oven on middle rack with broiler set on low. If you don’t have a low setting putting the pan lower may work better. Keep a close eye on the dish and remove when crumb topping is golden brown, about 5 mins. Serve with chopped parsley.