I really like the combination of cheeses in this because each one imparts a unique flavor. The mild cheddar adds a familiar mac & cheese creaminess, the extra sharp white cheddar adds a delicious tang, and the smoked gouda adds a unique smokiness that pairs beautifully with the bacon.
If you’re not a huge pumpkin fan (WEIRD), do not fret. The pumpkin is not super noticeable in the dish. As I was making it, my little brother turned his nose up at the mere thought of pumpkin mixed into one of his favorite foods—macaroni and cheese; but, he thoroughly enjoyed his portion!
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, pumpkin cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat.
Put the cheeses in a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large sauté pan until crisp. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then crumble and set aside.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the grease and heat over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the grease and whisk to incorporate. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring until golden-brown and thick (to make a roux).
Whisk in the pumpkin/milk mixture and allow to simmer until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes, to make a béchamel sauce. Stir in the cheese until melted. Stir 1 tablespoon of the sage into the mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the cooked pasta and 1/2 of the crumbled bacon.
Pour the pasta mixture into an oven safe baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine the panko, butter, and 1 tablespoon sage. Pour overt the pasta in the baking dish. Broil until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remainder of the crumbled bacon and serve.