Pumpkin Pasta Sauce with Penne

This pumpkin pasta sauce recipe is lusciously creamy, flavored with savory spices and Parmesan. Serve it over penne pasta for an easy meatless meal.

Pumpkin pasta sauce recipe

It’s pumpkin season! Alex and I needed a quick and easy dinner recipe for guests, and we were craving that ubiquitous orange squash. While pumpkin is often served sweet, why not savory? Pumpkin puree actually makes for a creamy, irresistible pumpkin pasta sauce. Its texture melds seamlessly with Parmesan cheese, and its subtle flavor works just as well with garlic and chili powder as with pumpkin spices. Even better, this pasta sauce is quick to whip up: even with the penne, it takes under 30 minutes to make.

Related: 12 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin parmesan pasta

How to make pumpkin pasta sauce

Here are all our secrets to this easy pumpkin pasta sauce! We based it off of our Pumpkin Gnocchi Bake, one of our most popular pumpkin recipes to date. So why not steal that sauce for a quick pasta? Instead of using cream cheese or heavy cream, this sauce features Greek yogurt, which brings a healthy spin.

Here are the basic steps for how to make pumpkin pasta sauce (see the recipe below for exact quantities):

  • Mince garlic, then heat olive oil in a skillet. Saute the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes, then carefully add canned pumpkin puree, vegetable broth, chili powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Simmer about 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce becomes thick.
  • Stir in a bit of Greek yogurt. To do so, you’ll temper the Greek yogurt with some of the sauce: in a small bowl, mix the yogurt with a few spoonfuls of the pasta sauce. This makes sure it doesn’t curdle when immediately hitting the hot pasta sauce. 
  • Mix in grated Parmesan cheese. Serve on any shape of pasta, and garnish with additional Parmesan.

The resulting pumpkin pasta sauce is flavorful and creamy, with no bitter aftertaste like canned pumpkin can sometimes have. Mainly, it’s cheesy and delicious! Even better, you can make up the entire pumpkin pasta sauce recipe and boil the pasta in 30 minutes. 

Use on any type of pasta

Even though we’ve shown this pumpkin pasta sauce recipe with penne, it can work with any type of pasta! It’s fantastic with short pasta, like macaroni, rigatoni, or fusilli (spirals). You could also use it on longer pastas like linguine or fettuccine. We typically make this one with short cuts of pasta, but it absolutely works with whatever you’re feeling at the moment.

Pasta with pumpkin sauce

What’s in pumpkin puree?

Pumpkin puree is cooked pumpkin that has been blended down into a puree. Now, important note. Do not accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling and use it in this recipe. It’s sweetened and includes pumpkin spices. Since the cans look very similar on the shelf, it’s easy to do. In fact, one time we mistakenly started to use pumpkin pie filling in this pasta sauce. Suffice it to say, the smell of the puree coming out of the can inspired a few choice words!

Also, did you know that most canned pumpkin also has butternut squash? (Here’s what’s really in your canned pumpkin puree.) Butternut squash is sweeter and creamier than pumpkin, which can be bitter and stringy. So many times manufacturers add butternut squash. Some people are horrified to find this out. But to us, it’s not cheating at all. We want the creamiest, tastiest puree possible: no matter what the vegetable is called. After all, pumpkin is just a type of squash!

How to cook pasta to al dente

Al dente it means “to the bite” in Italian. It refers to pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. What is it such a big deal? Well, there’s a huge difference between al dente pasta and limp pasta: you’ll find that al dente pasta tastes so much more satisfying. You may also find yourself eating less pasta overall if you cook it to al dente, because you have to bite through each piece.

Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Boil the pasta in a large pot of boiling water.
  • Start taste testing a few minutes before the package instructions indicate to. The pasta should be tender, but still firm on the inside so that it has a little bite.
Pumpkin Penne with Parmesan | Pumpkin pasta

This pumpkin pasta sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, find gluten-free penne.

Related: Try using our Homemade Vegetable Broth for this recipe!

Print
Pumpkin pasta sauce recipe

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce with Penne


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (17 votes, average: 4.71 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Description

This pumpkin pasta sauce recipe is lusciously creamy, flavored with savory spices and Parmesan. Serve it over penne pasta for an easy meatless meal.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta (or gluten-free pasta)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish

Instructions

  1. Start a pot of salted water to boil, then boil the pasta until al dente. When done, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  2. Mince the garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat; add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.
  3. Carefully add the pumpkin purée and broth to the skillet and stir to fully combine. Add the chili powder, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cover and bring it to a high simmer, bubbling constantly. then cook for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Once thickened, place 1/2 cup of the sauce in a small bowl and mix it with the Greek yogurt, then add the mixture back to the pan and stir to combine. Add the shredded Parmesan and stir until mostly melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  4. Pour the pumpkin Parmesan sauce onto the pasta. Serve immediately, garnished with additional grated Parmesan cheese.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Pumpkin Pasta, Pumpkin Penne, Penne Pasta, Vegetarian, Fall, Healthy Dinner Recipe, Parmesan

Looking for pumpkin recipes? 

In pumpkin season? Here are a few of our favorite pumpkin recipes:

Subscribe for free weekly recipes & more!

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

21 Comments

  • Reply
    Belinda @themoonblushbaker
    October 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

    I actually made your pumpkin hummus and I find it is great as well in a potato bake. It helps the flavouring in the normally bland cheese sauce. Hope to see what else you can come up with to help us at dinner!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      What a great idea! How did you make the potato bake? That sounds scrumptious.

  • Reply
    Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche
    October 21, 2013 at 7:25 am

    This looks amazing – gorgeous photos! I’ve actually only just started cooking with pumpkin (like, literally just last week) – it’s not easy to find the tinned pureed stuff here in the UK and I’m too lazy to cut up a whole one!! But I think this recipe might just convince me :)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 21, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Oh, thank you! We haven’t made our own puree…yet :) We definitely need to. Good luck with locating some puree!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    October 21, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Simple pasta meals like this are the best! Love this!

  • Reply
    Grace @ Earthy Feast
    October 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Ok, now I have to make that pumpkin hummus! This looks so scrumptious!

  • Reply
    thelittleloaf
    October 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Ooh that looks so deliciously creamy! Perfect autumn comfort food.

  • Reply
    Prudy
    October 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    So pretty, and I bet just as delicious. Your photos are amazing… I can only hope to someday be that good! Thank you for sharing.. :-)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      Oh, thank you! That is so kind!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ hidden fruits and veggies
    October 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    YUM! I love pumpkin but have mostly kept it for sweet dishes. Can’t wait to try a savory one.

  • Reply
    Ash-foodfashionparty
    October 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    A simple and humble pasta which looks pretty yummy. Your pictures are so bright and fresh looking.

    • Reply
      Alex
      October 21, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      Thank you :)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      Thank you, Asha!

  • Reply
    Tieghan
    October 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    This looks delicious and the photos are perfect! I bet the pumpkin hummus worked so well as the sauce!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 21, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Thanks so much, Tieghan! It was very tasty :)

  • Reply
    Lisanne de Jong
    October 22, 2013 at 4:39 am

    That looks beyond! Definetly trying this out soon!

  • Reply
    MaryA
    November 2, 2014 at 8:16 am

    If you heat canned pumpkin it’s makes it taste fresher and removes the metallic taste.

  • Reply
    Rita
    February 4, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Sounds delicious & healthy – perfect for these chilly days!

  • Reply
    Jessica Flory
    October 23, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Sonja, you NAILED IT!!! The updated recipe is fabulous!! The whole family loved this pasta dish. So creamy and flavorful!

  • Reply
    Jessica Flory
    October 30, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Sonja, you NAILED IT!!! The updated recipe is fabulous!! The whole family loved this pasta dish. So creamy and flavorful!

  • Reply
    Judy Green
    November 4, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Made this pumpkin pasta dish for dinner. It was a hearty meal that is both delicious and comforting! Easy to make and a hit with my family. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.