Pumpkin puree takes a savory turn in this ultra thick and creamy pumpkin pasta recipe. With simple steps and basic ingredients, you'll want to make this easy dinner long after fall is over. It can be on the table in about 30 minutes!
For a long time I liked the concept of making a pasta sauce with pumpkin puree, but worried it would be bland (like plain pumpkin is) or even worse, lean unappealingly sweet in flavor, that it put me off of the whole idea.
Then I dipped my toes in the water and started playing around with the prototype for pumpkin mac and cheese, and WOW. My worries were unfounded.
This pumpkin pasta recipe is a lighter, simpler take than that mac and cheese that pairs pumpkin with a supporting cast of savory flavors to yield a thick and delectably creamy sauce. I'll be stocking my pantry with cans of pumpkin to last the whole year through.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- This is a great recipe for using up a partial can of pumpkin puree. You'll need one cup of pumpkin, which is a little more than half of a 14.5-ounce can.
- The flavor of this sauce is wonderful on its own, but can be paired with a variety of proteins to "beef" up this dish. There are two listed below that are my personal favorites!
- A simple roux and pumpkin puree combine to yield a super thick and creamy pumpkin pasta sauce without the use of cream. The same lower-fat milk/broth/minimal fat combination is clutch in better-for-you creamy gorgonzola gnocchi.
- Pumpkin puree: Be sure to use 100% pure pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie mix. The cans are often next to one another on store shelves and can easily be mistaken for one another.
- Milk: Use your preferred variety. The pumpkin sauce thickens from the roux and pumpkin puree so a higher milkfat percentage isn't necessary here. I use 2%.
- Broth: I prefer chicken broth for its flavor, but vegetable broth can be substituted.
- Pasta: For this creamy pumpkin pasta sauce I go for either wider long pasta (fettuccine, linguine) or mid-sized shapes with crevices or ridges to hold onto the sauce (penne, ziti, cavatappi).
- Pecorino: A grated hard Italian cheese, such as Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, goes surprisingly well with pumpkin for a decidedly savory flavor.
- Sage: Fresh sage ties the warm and cozy fall flavors together. Rubbed sage, found in the dry spice baking aisle, is a good substitute for a more convenient option.
You'll be working two burners on the stove for this recipe. To be efficient, start cooking the sauce in a skillet while waiting for the pot of water to boil. If the pasta is done before the sauce, drain (reserving some of the water) and keep warm.
- Add butter and olive oil to a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Once melted, cook onion for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper, then scatter in flour. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Whisk in chicken broth and milk. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, around 8-10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the grated cheese. Whisk while doing so as it melts, then whisk in the pumpkin puree.
- Add the sage, cayenne, and cooked pasta and toss to evenly combine. If you'd like a thinner sauce, add reserved pasta water a little bit at a time until the consistency is just right.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Spice Timing: Adding paprika toward the beginning of this pumpkin pasta allows the flavors to bloom in the cooking fat and really permeate the flavor of its sauce. Cayenne is much spicier and added just at the end so its heat doesn't grow and overwhelm.
- Why You Cook Flour: While it looks clumpy and strange, cooking the flour for a few minutes along with the onion and garlic before pouring in liquid gets rid of an unpleasant raw flour taste and prevents the sauce as a whole from clumping up later on.
- Optimal Cheese Options: Grating a wedge of Pecorino Romano yourself yields the freshest flavor, though the refrigerated deli cases at the supermarket will have the next best thing. I grew up with ever-present cartons of Locatelli in the fridge, so that's my store-bought favorite. Grate the cheese as finely as possible so it melts quickly into the pumpkin pasta sauce.
Been there, done that! If you drained all the water and still want a thinner sauce, drizzle in a little extra warm milk or heat up an extra amount of chicken broth and stir it in to thin.
The flavors of this savory pumpkin sauce pair nicely with cooked and crumbled bacon, as well as with grilled (or otherwise cooked) apple chicken sausage, sliced into rounds and tossed with the pasta.
More Savory Pumpkin Recipes
- If you open a new can of puree to make this pumpkin pasta, you can use the rest in a seriously delicious Instant Pot turkey chili. Pumpkin blends right in and makes it so silky!
- Pumpkin dinner rolls are flavored with garlic and herbs and look quite seasonally-appropriate on the dinner table.
- If your crowd is one who enjoys mac and cheese on Thanksgiving, consider pumpkin mac and cheese. It's festive with a blend of cheeses and a ton of warm and cozy flavor.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
- 8 ounces (227g) pasta such as penne, cavatappi, etc.
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter
- Half of a medium onion diced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Big pinch of ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons (16g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (240 ml) reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup (240 ml) 2% milk
- ½ cup (28g) finely-shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, more for serving
- 1 cup (244g) pumpkin puree
- 2 Tablespoons finely-chopped fresh sage leaves
- Grating of fresh nutmeg (optional)
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional, or to taste)
- Prep all ingredients: dice onion, mince garlic, grate Pecorino, and chop sage. Set aside for now. Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
- Begin the sauce while the water is coming up to boil. Add olive oil and butter to a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted and everything is well heated, add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the minced garlic to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Season with paprika, kosher salt, and black pepper and stir in.
- Sprinkle flour over the onion and garlic and stir in. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, then slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk. Stir and cook as the sauce thickens until it can coat the back of a wooden spoon.
- Once the pot of water is boiling, salt it and add your pasta. Cook according to package directions, reserving a ladle or two of water at the end of cook time before draining it.
- When the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat and scatter in the grated Pecorino and whisk as it melts to combine. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, chopped sage, and cayenne (if using), then add the drained pasta and toss. Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce to your liking, if desired.
- Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with extra grated Pecorino, sage, and/or a grating of fresh nutmeg.
- If you forget to reserve some of the pasta water, heat up some milk or chicken broth and stir it into the sauce at the end if you'd like it thinner.
- Protein options that pair well with these pumpkin pasta flavors are cooked and crumbled bacon and apple chicken sausage.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer