If you've ever had pumpkin ravioli--pasta pillows filled with cheesy and earthy-sweet pumpkin--you'll love this mac and cheese. Adding canned pumpkin to the bechamel sauce thickens it, making it extra creamy and vibrantly orange. The crowning touch? You top the dish with whole slices of Cheddar and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve a golden brown layer of pure melty goodness.
Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and rinse under cold water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the half-and-half, Dijon, cayenne, nutmeg, garlic powder and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce begins to boil and thicken enough to hold a trail by the whisk, 5 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and grated Cheddar until the cheese just melts. Stir in the pasta, adding enough of the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce.
If your broiler is in the top of the oven, move the oven rack to the center. Preheat the broiler.
Transfer the mac and cheese to the baking dish, top with the Cheddar slices and broil until the cheese is melted and the top browns in places, 8 to 9 minutes.
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