Oct 2, 2022
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Creamy pumpkin pasta is a delicious and simple recipe that quickly comes together with pasta, grated Parmesan, pumpkin puree, and a touch of cream.
Before we go one step further, let me clarify that this recipe is not sweet, nor does it taste anything like pumpkin pie. Instead, the pumpkin puree and cheese give the sauce a rich alfredo-like texture that coats the pasta with a savory flavor.
Pumpkin Pasta Sauce Ingredients
You can attribute the sauce’s silky, luxurious texture to pumpkin purée. It’s a lighter way to add a creamy texture or bulk up recipes without more fat or calories. Perfect examples would be this hearty turkey chili and pasta.
Here’s everything you’ll need for this recipe:
- Penne pasta: swap for rotini, macaroni, or linguine.
- Olive oil: to brown the garlic.
- Minced garlic: adds a delicious aroma and depth of flavor.
- Pumpkin puree: make sure it’s purée and not canned pumpkin pie filling.
- Pasta water: the secret to a perfect pasta sauce.
- Half and half: is what gives the sauce a creamy, alfredo-like consistency.
- Milk: cuts the amount of half and half needed.
- Nutmeg: adds a warm, nutty fragrance and flavor.
- Salt: makes everything taste better.
- Grated Parmesan cheese: makes the sauce rich and decadent.
You’ll find the ingredient amounts in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Want to make this gluten-free? Swap regular pasta for your favorite gluten-free option. The milk and half and half can also be exchanged for unsweetened almond milk and canned coconut milk.
How to Make Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
Leftover canned pumpkin can be used in so many ways, but this recipe is a perfect pasta night fix. Compared to fettuccine alfredo, it’s much lighter, and the combination of sauce and pasta practically melts in your mouth.
Here’s how to make it:
- Cook the pasta
Cook pasta according to box directions, reserve 1 cup pasta water, drain, and set aside.
- Make the sauce
In a large skillet, sauté the garlic in oil over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin puree and half of the pasta water. Stir to combine until a paste forms.
- Add the dairy
Add the half and half, milk, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese and whisk to combine. The sauce should be smooth.
- Dish up!
Toss in the cooked pasta and combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more of the reserved pasta water. Remove from heat and top with additional cheese. It’s ready to be enjoyed.
Watch this video to see the magic happen for yourself!
Make-Ahead Pumpkin Pasta
Want to prep this meal a few days before? You can easily make that happen, just follow the step-by-step directions below:
- Prepare the pasta and sauce as directed.
- Allow the sauce to cool down to room temperature before refrigerating in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Toss the pasta with a ½ tablespoon olive oil before storing it in an airtight container and refrigerating for up to 4 days.
- To reheat, bring the sauce to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. It should return to its silky smooth state. It should be lighter and slightly thinner than cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese.
- Stir the pasta into the sauce, toss to combine, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until heated through.
What is your favorite thing to cook with pumpkin?
Easy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- ½ cup half and half
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve 1 cup pasta water, drain, and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the pumpkin puree and half of the reserved pasta water. Whisk until a smooth paste forms.
- Stir in the half and half milk, nutmeg, and salt to the sauce bring to a simmer while occasionally stirring. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened and smooth.
- Once heated through, add in the grated Parmesan and whisk until the cheese is dissolved. Add the cooked pasta and toss to combine. Add a little more pasta water if your sauce is too thick. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.
Was looking for a recipe to use up some leftover canned pumpkin and am SO glad I came across this one! Made this today and it was delicious. Thanks so much for the awesome suggestions for substitutions. I used coconut milk (in place of half and half) and almond milk (instead of milk) and it worked out brilliantly! I also added in some spinach and chili flakes but overall we really enjoyed the recipe, quick and flavorful. 🙂
Forgot to mention I also skipped the Parmesan as I didn’t have any on hand.
oohh!! with that substitution combo I bet it was super creamy! I am so glad you enjoyed this, Sarah.
This pumpkin pasta recipe did not disappoint! I was looking for something to make with my leftover pumpkin puree that wasn’t dessert, and this was perfect. It definitely reminds me of alfredo– way simpler and a lot less (none) flour/carbs…the cheese/milk might make up for those calories, though haha! Saving this recipe!
Is this meal suitable for a one-year-old baby?
Given that your child can eat everything I don’t see why not.
I have started making squash puree in the pot with my handheld blender. I love it ! (I microwave them first.) My kids get to help, too – blending for most squash or even scooping for special shaped ones like acorn squash beforehand. I can throw in just about any vegetable and small amounts of leftovers ANYTHING (soups, eggs, meatballs, beans) into the blending mix — it’s just great. I do it in the pot so no more dishes. Hubby is not fond of sweetness of squash but he really appreciates the thick soup on a long afternoon of work or as a light supper in the hours post dinner when he has work to do.
I have been looking for more recipes to make use of this blending power and this is perfect — we love pasta. I will try it soon. Thx !
That’s amazing! Enjoy it!
Are you supposed to use the full cup of pasta water?
I like to use half at first, and then slowly add after I add in the pasta to make sure it’s the thickness of the sauce I prefer. I hope this helps!
We had this for Halloween (of course!) and it was delicious! I didn’t even want to tell my kids what it was since half of them claim to not like pumpkin. All but one just thought it was cheese. I couldn’t help think that some chicken and sage spices would make it more divine but then that’s an extra step then too. Thank you for this! I just froze extra pureed pumpkin explicitly for repeating this dish 😀