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Luscious, creamy, cheesy and belly warming Pumpkin Pasta Sauce! I don’t know if there’s a more perfect pasta sauce out there, but this one is a clear winner. This sauce is easy to make and ticks all the boxes for a satisfying meal. It reminds me of an incredible, fancy mac and cheese.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
If you’re still on the fence about adding canned pumpkin puree to a pasta sauce, please try this recipe! Pumpkin doesn’t have a big flavor profile especially when combined with other ingredients so you really don’t taste it. No need to tell the family you added something healthy to their favorite, crazy-good pasta sauce!
For the sauce:
- unsalted butter or olive oil
- minced shallot
- garlic cloves minced
- tomato paste
- fresh sage leaves
- cayenne pepper (optional but highly recommended for extra zing)
- heavy cream or half-and-half
- canned pumpkin puree or homemade (not sweetened pumpkin pie filling)
- fresh ground black pepper
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- shredded Gouda or diced American deli cheese
- cooked rigatoni, penne or fettuccine or your favorite type of pasta
- reserved pasta cooking water for thinning the sauce
- fresh sage leaves for garnish
- plenty of fresh ground black pepper
How to make super creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
1. Cook the pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente according to the package instructions. Drain well in a colander set over a heat-proof bowl to reserve some of the pasta water. Use the reserved pasta water to thin the finished sauce as needed.
2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. And add the shallot and sauté until softened. Next, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in the tomato paste, minced sage leaves and cayenne. Cook stirring constantly until the paste darkens, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup heavy cream and the pumpkin puree to the shallot mixture. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer gently (stirring occasionally) until the mixture reduces slightly and thickens, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining cream, salt, pepper, Parmesan and Gouda to the pumpkin sauce. Stir until you melt all the cheese.
Add the hot cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Pour in one-fourth cup or more of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin as needed. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper.
Serve immediately garnished with fresh sage leaves and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.
What to serve with our Pumpkin Pasta recipe
A light green salad is a great starter for this dish or any pasta recipe! Try our homemade creamy Italian Dressing recipe for a zesty herb packed treat.
We recommend serving this pasta with a nice big hunk of crusty bread to wipe up all the sauce.
For added protein, serve along side a well seasoned piece of chicken or stir in some cooked Italian sausage at the end.
Delicious add-ins and substitutions
- Use cooked, mashed butternut squash in place of the pumpkin puree.
- Substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream if desired. If using whole milk in place of the cream you may not need to add pasta water. Use your best judgment and add one tablespoon at a time instead of one-fourth cup increments.
- Add half a sweet onion in place of the shallot if needed. However, we prefer shallot for the bold flavor.
- Add diced deli style American cheese in place of the Gouda. Any cheese with great meltability will work but don’t skip the fresh grated Parmesan.
- Stir in cooked Italian sausage at the end.
- Add one-fourth teaspoon crushed red pepper with the tomato paste for added warmth and zing.
Storing and reheating leftovers
Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave at 50% power. Add a splash of milk, vegetable broth or water to loosen the sauce as needed.
Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- 16 ounces rigatoni penne or fettuccine pasta
- reserved pasta cooking water as needed to thin
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 fresh sage leaves minced
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream divided (12oz)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (244g)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 oz) not packed
- 1 cup shredded Gouda cheese (2 oz) not packed
Cook the pasta:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water to add to the sauce if needed.
Make the sauce:
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, minced sage and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, until the paste darkens, about 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup cream and pumpkin to the shallot mixture. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently (stirring occasionally) until the mixture reduces slightly and thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat stir in the remaining 1/2 cup cream, salt, pepper, Gouda and Parmesan. Stir until the cheese is melted. Toss the sauce with hot cooked pasta then add 1/4 cup of pasta water plus more if needed to thin. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh sage leaves and serve immediately.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat single servings gently in the microwave. Add a splash of milk, cream or water to thin, stir and heat again.
More great pumpkin recipes
Sometimes we forget that pumpkin is more than just a Halloween decoration. It’s an edible squash and blends beautifully in both sweet and savory recipes.