This pumpkin pasta is filled with delicious fall flavors that are easy enough to whip up on a weeknight. With a creamy pumpkin sauce and crunchy sage pepita topping, you'll love this cozy recipe.
With under 10 ingredients and most of which are pantry staples, this super easy pumpkin sage pasta will have everyone coming back for seconds.
This creamy pumpkin pasta is also perfect to make ahead and store for lunches - I'll show you how!
There's nothing more that I love during cool evenings than a giant bowl of cozy pasta and this pumpkin pasta is one that I've been making for years. I love it so much, I actually put it in my first cookbook.
I've made this recipe for dinner parties, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and many readers and friends say it's like a healthy mac and cheese.
Why everyone loves this pumpkin pasta:
- Fall flavors - Sage, pepitas, and pumpkin all combine for the ultimate fall meal that doesn't require hours of baking.
- Easy ingredients - All you need is canned pumpkin, pasta, a few pantry staples, and sage.
- A lighter mac and cheese - This is a great way to sneak in extra vegetables for kids (and adults) by making a pasta that looks almost just like mac and cheese but with fewer calories and more health benefits.
3 Tips for Making Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
- Choosing a pumpkin puree - You can do this several different ways, by making your own at home, or going with a favorite brand. Organic brands tend to have good flavor but be more watery than Libby, which has a more classic flavor that's good for baking.
- Fresh herbs - Using fresh chives and sage can make a big difference when you have limited ingredients. In a pinch I'll use Litehouse dried, but I would highly recommend going fresh.
- Quality Pasta - If you can choose a fresh pasta (the kind that's refrigerated) over boxed, it will make a big difference in flavor and texture for this recipe.
Which Pumpkin Puree is Best for Pasta?
There are so many types of pumpkin puree on the market and it's easy to think they're all the same, but alas - they're not!
Libby's - Libby's has a darker hue and tends to have a very strong pumpkin flavor that's really great for baking. It's also less watery than organic brands.
Organic pumpkin puree - Tends to have a lighter flavor and a more watery consistency.
Homemade - Homemade pumpkin puree can often have the best flavor. The instant pot can make this a speedy process.
Pasta is a lot more forgiving than baking so go with the pumpkin puree that you prefer for flavor.
- Pasta - I love to use a fresh, small pasta for this like shells, cavatappi, farfalle, or orecchiette, just to name a few.
- Pumpkin - Choose a pumpkin puree that's plain, without any flavorings.
- Fresh herbs - Sage and chives are my favorite here and fresh does make a difference. In a pinch, I'll use Litehouse dried herbs.
- Pepitas - These are pumpkin seeds, and I recommend getting pre-roasted ones. Salted or unsalted will both work. They provide a great crunch on top.
- Cream cheese and butter - I recommend a cream cheese without carageenan, like Organic Valley or most organic house brands. Philadelphia plain cream cheese also works. For butter I love to use Kerrygold unsalted.
- Broth - Vegetable broth like Trader Joe's Hearty Vegetable will work or a homemade one. I highly recommend my instant pot chicken stock.
Step 1: Start boiling the pasta
In a large pot, heat salted water over high heat until boiling. Add pasta and cooking according to package directions. Drain, but reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce.
Step 2: Make the pumpkin pasta sauce
In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat, then add shallots and garlic. Stir frequently as it softens and becomes fragrant, being careful to not burn the garlic. Add in the pumpkin puree and a ¼-1/2 cup of pasta water, whisking till they are combined and smooth. Stir in the cream cheese and sage, until cheese is fully melted and smooth.
Step 3: Add in pasta
Add in the cooked, drained pasta to the sauce, tossing to combine. The sauce should be enough to coat the pasta well, but you can add more pasta water as needed. Top with chives, fresh sage, and pepita crumbles. Serve pumpkin pasta warm with some of the suggestions below!
Variations and Substitutions
- Goat cheese - Chevre works really well in this pumpkin pasta in place of cream cheese. Especially for a bit of tangy flavor!
- Rosemary - Rosemary can be substituted for fresh sage.
- Canned butternut squash or sweet potato - These can both be substitutes for pumpkin puree.
- Toasted breadcrumbs - For an extra crunch, add toasted breadcrumbs to the pepita topping mixture.
- Chicken - Add cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- Dairy free - Butter can be substituted with ghee, if tolerated, or use Earth Balance Pressed Oils. Omit the cheese. It's not quite as creamy, but still delicious.
- Gluten free - Choose a favorite gluten free pasta.
This pumpkin pasta reheats well the next day! Simply store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
To reheat, place in the microwave or on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Add about 1 tablespoon of water or milk to the pasta to get the sauce to thin out, or more as needed.
So many delicious dishes can be served with pumpkin pasta. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Apple Fennel Salad
- Pear and Rocket Salad
- Air Fryer Flank Steak
- Roasted Pork Loin
- Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin
Also just pair this with a warm baguette and a simple salad like the ones above for the most perfect and cozy vegetarian dinner.
If you would like a wine pairing, I highly recommend a Chardonnay like Benzinger, or Liquid Farm Golden Slope. See here for more suggestions on the best alcohol for people with migraine.
It can be tricky to pair pumpkin pasta so it's really great as an all vegetarian dish, but my favorite meat dish to serve with it is pork. Salty, savory pork is complimented by the slight sweetness of pumpkin and makes for a lovely pairing. I recommend the air fryer pork tenderloin for a quick dinner.
I would recommend trying to find an actual pumpkin shaped pasta, like fall zucchette pasta from Trader Joe's and also increasing the recipe proportions to serve more people. You can adjust the serving size in the recipe card. This would make a great Thanksgiving side dish.
This recipe also works with butternut squash or sweet potato puree.
I really love goat cheese in this recipe as I find the sour notes compliment the sweetness of the pumpkin well. But I find many readers just can't stand goat cheese (even though you can't really taste it strongly in this recipe), so cream cheese is an alternative.
How to Use Leftover Pumpkin
If you have any leftover pumpkin puree from the pumpkin pasta here are a few recipes where you can use it up!
Cozy Pasta Recipes
For more pasta recipes like this delicious creamy pumpkin pasta, see these posts.
- 16 oz pasta of choice
- 4 tablespoons good butter
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and chopped
- 1 15oz can unflavored pumpkin puree
- 2 oz unflavored cream cheese or goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon of dried), chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- ½ cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, but save about a cup of the pasta water for later.
- Meanwhile in a large pan, melt butter over medium heat and add shallot and garlic. Cook till fragrant, stirring often with a wood spoon, about a minute or two. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to combine.
- Add a little bit of the pasta water about ¼ cup at a time until desired consistency is reached, the mixture should be thick enough to coat the pasta well. Whisk in cheese and sage until creamy and thick. Then add the hot pasta and toss to coat. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.
- Top pasta with toasted pepitas and chives. Serve immediately.
- Don't forget the pasta water is your friend. Reserve it to get the sauce to the consistency you love. You can also use it for reheating the pasta!
- I favor goat cheese/chèvre with this, but cream cheese also works well.
- Don't skip the pepitas, the texture and crunch is worth it!
- Try subbing out the pumpkin puree for sweet potato or butternut squash puree to mix things up.
This post was originally published November 4, 2018 under Pumpkin Sage Pasta and has been updated with new photography and recipe tips.