If you love mac and cheese or alfredo, you’ll love this better-for-you creamy macaroni dish. The secret ingredient is canned pumpkin.
A good source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, canned pumpkin is a budget friendly, nutritious item to keep in your pantry.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that protect our body from oxidative stress. Unstable molecules, called free radicals, can cause damage our body’s cells through oxidation (think about how an apple will get damaged by browning when it sits out in the air – this is an example of oxidation).
Healthy Aging: Heart, Mind and Skin
Antioxidants help reduce the oxidative damage that can occur in our body. That’s important because oxidative stress is related to several chronic diseases, including heart disease, brain decline, and some cancers.
Antioxidants also support healthy skin and eyes. Beta-carotene rich foods like pumpkin can increase the skin’s defenses against UV rays, which helps maintain skin’s health and appearance.
Foods Providing Beta-carotene
Canned pumpkin is an easy way to enjoy beta carotene in your diet, but there are many other good sources:
- Dark greens
- Butternut and acorn squash
- Red, yellow and orange bell peppers
Let me know if you try this dish!
Creamy Macaroni with Pumpkin Sauce
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni or other small macaroni
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 tsp butter
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
- 1-1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
- pinch salt
- ground pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta water, up to 1/2 cup
- 1 tsp ground sage or 3 leaves fresh, minced
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme or salt-free Italian herb blend
- Heat oil in a large pan or dutch oven. Add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add butter, garlic and saute 1 minute.
- Get pasta water ready while onion is sautéed. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water and bring to a boil.
- Add the canned pumpkin to the onion mixture, reduce heat to low, and heat through, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Cook pasta once water is boiling. Cook al dente, for 6-8 minutes. Once cooked, reserve a cup of pasta water and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, transfer onions to a high speed blender or food processor. Add the pumpkin and ricotta cheese. Blend on high until smooth and combined.
- Transfer the pumpkin sauce back to pan. Add the drained pasta and stir. Gradually add 1/4 cup of pasta water, or more, to thin sauce as needed. Enjoy!