You might think Thanksgiving mac and cheese is a mac and cheese you serve at Thanksgiving. That is NOT what this recipe is! This recipe is a mac and cheese flavored with everything you love about Thanksgiving!
I started with a stuffing base of onion, carrot, celery, butter, garlic, sage, and rosemary, and then added smoked turkey, cranberries, and brussel sprouts, and even mixed squash in with the sauce. Each bite is like Thanksgiving punched you in the mouth! You could do this with leftovers after Thanksgiving, but I prefer to make it fresh when I am anticipating these flavors.
But I buried the lede a little bit here. The real revelation of this recipe is that the breadcrumbs are mixed with turkey skin! The fat from the turkey skin gets all up in the breadcrumbs and drips over the whole Thanksgiving mac and cheese keeping it nice and creamy and fatty and so so good! On top of that, it gets the skin and breadcrumbs extra crispy and creates magic with every bite!
Sear the brussel sprouts first
Sear the brussel sprouts first to get them nice and browned on all sides. Try to do this in a really hot pan so you brown them without cooking them all the way through. I love the flavor of burnt brussel sprouts, but hate soggy overcooked sprouts.
Make the creamy squash cheese sauce
Start by sauteing diced onion, carrot, and celery, then add garlic, rosemary, and sage. Next mix in a little flour and add milk. Once it thickens up, add in the squash. After this photo I added the pasta and cheese and stirred it all together! I used butternut but you could do any winter squash. Here is a guide to the differences between squashes.
Pour the Thanksgiving mac and cheese mixture into a baking dish. I chopped up some cranberries and added them too.
Topping the Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese
So here is the real key to this Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese. THE BREADCRUMBS ARE MIXED WITH TURKEY SKIN. I used store bought smoked turkey legs for this recipe. I separated the skin and the meat and chopped up the meat to put into the mac and cheese. Then I chopped up the skin to mix in the breadcrumbs!
Bake this beauty for about 30 minutes at 400. the high heat browns the top really nice!
After it comes out of the oven it is crispy and bubbly and smells unbelievable! The smoked turkey gives the whole dish a fantastic smokey flavor!
Who is gonna make Thanksgiving mac and cheese for Friendsgiving? I did and it was a huge hit with everyone! The cranberries also have a nice tart flavor that balances out the savory cheese sauce and turkey really well.
Did you notice I took one bite out of the casserole before I started scooping it. I had to try some before serving it to everyone!
Twists on Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese
You could make this with thanksgiving leftovers if you would rather. If I was doing it that way, I would make a simple bechamel sauce, then add all my leftovers to the pot with some cooked pasta and a bunch of cheese. Stir it up, then add to the baking dish. I would still top it with the turkey breadcrumbs though. They are SO GOOD.
Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1 small carrot diced
- 1 rib celery diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped sage
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cooked and mashed squash
- 3 ounces sharp cheddar grated
- 5 ounces low moisture mozzarella grated
- 6 ounces mild provolone grated
- 1/2 pound pasta
- 1 cup shredded smoked turkey leg
- 1/2 cup halfed cranberries
- 2 cups quartered brussel sprouts
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup diced cooked turkey skin
- Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in the butter in a large pot. Cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sage, and rosemary and cook 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer. you will notice it thicken up. Remove from heat and stir in the squash.
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions but about 1 or 2 minutes less. When it is done move it directly to the sauce and stir to combine, adding about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the mix.
- Stir in the cheese to combine, don’t worry if it doesn’t all melt in.
- Meanwhile, saute the brussel sprouts to brown on all sides and add them to the pasta mixture. Next saute the turkey and add that to the pasta. Finally add in the cranberries.
- Preheat oven to 400. Add the pasta mixture to a baking dish.
- Mix the breadcrumbs with the butter and turkey skin to combine. Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Bake about 30 minutes until the top is crispy and the pasta is bubbling. If the topping isnt browned, broil it for a few minutes to make sure the turkey skin has crisped up. Serve!