Easy Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

Pasta with creamy pumpkin sauce is an easy recipe for fall dinner parties or luncheons. It’s got canned pumpkin puree, cream, and vegetable broth, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians. Serve it as an entree or side dish in less than 30 minutes!

penne pasta in pumpkin sauce on white plate with toasted crostini and utensils on the side.

This pumpkin sauce reminds me of vodka sauce but there are no tomatoes so it’s less acidic. You’ll love to serve it throughout the fall and winter months, but since it uses canned pumpkin you can make ANY time of year.

Why You’ll Love it

  • Quick and easy to make. You can have it ready in 30 minutes or less, and the active time in minimal; the stovetop does most of the work.
  • So versatile! You can serve it as a main course or as a side dish with meat. And, it’s perfect for vegetarians but you can also make it for meat eaters with a couple of alterations like adding meat or meat-stuffed pasta shapes.
  • It’s comfort food. A great fall dinner party idea.
penne pasta in pumpkin sauce on white plate with toasted crostini and utensils on the side.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Here are the key ingredients, but you’ll also need pantry staples like olive oil, salt and pepper.

  • Pasta. I typically use whole wheat penne pasta but you can use any small size shapes.
  • Shallots. Shallots have a milder flavor than onions, however you can substitute with any regular onion.
  • Garlic. You’ll use fresh cloves, crushed. If you’re in a pinch you can substitute with 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Vegetable broth. If you want to keep it vegetarian use vegetable broth, but chicken broth or bone broth adds great flavor, too.
  • Canned pumpkin. Use 100% pumpkin puree.
  • Heavy cream. This makes it rich and creamy! You can also use half-and-half.
  • Tabasco. Unless otherwise noted, I always use Tabasco brand. It’s got fantastic sweet undertones along with the heat.
  • Ground nutmeg. 
  • Fresh sage leaves.

Serve with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese.

Variations

  • Use a cheese-filled pasta for extra texture and flavor. Cheese tortellini or stuffed ravioli are excellent choices. 
  • Use other pasta shapes like elbows, rigatoni, cavatappi or fusilli. 
  • Serve the sauce with gnocchi too!
  • Mix in cooked ground beef or chicken, sausage, or cooked shredded chicken.
  • Serve it with crumble bacon on top. 

How to Make It

See detailed instructions in the recipe card below.

photo with steps to cook shallots and pumpkin cream sauce.
  1. Cook pasta in boiling water, and meanwhile cook shallots and garlic.
  2. When the vegetables are soft, pour in broth, pumpkin puree, and cream, and stir to combine.
photo steps to make penne pasta in pumpkin sauce.
  1. Season with hot sauce, nutmeg and salt, then stir in fresh sage.
  2. Add cooked pasta and toss to combine.

PARTY TIP: Garnish with fried sage leaves. This is one of my favorite ideas for fall dishes. Simply heat a small saucepan with a shallow layer of vegetable oil and add a single sage leaf when the oil is hot. It cooks quickly! Place it on a paper towel to drain and it will crisp up as it cools.

Expert Tips

Slightly under cook the pasta. As you follow the package directions for cooking it al dente, cook it about a minute or two less. That’s because it will continue to cook as you add it to the sauce in the pan.

Make sure to chop the shallots as small as you can so your sauce isn’t too chunky.

Scoop out about a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta so you can use it to thin out the sauce if needed.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the water before adding the pasta to cook. It will help keep the pasta from sticking together after it’s been drained.

Add protein by using chickpea pasta or other protein pasta.

Make it a vegetarian entree by tossing in red kidney beans, white beans or chickpeas. After you’ve tossed the pasta with the sauce you can stir in the beans.

Use the sauce as a substitution for traditional red sauce in lasagna.

penne pasta in pumpkin sauce on white plate with toasted crostini and utensils on the side.

What to Serve with Pumpkin Pasta

Pair this with a nice Pinot Noir for a dinner party, and serve with bread and one of these dishes to round out the menu.

More Pasta Recipes

If you love this creamy pumpkin pasta as much as I do, try these other yummy dishes.

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penne pasta in pumpkin sauce on white plate with toasted crostini and utensils on the side.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Easy and delicious comfort food starts with this penne pasta and creamy pumpkin sauce. It's perfect for vegetarians but can be dressed up for meat lovers too.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta (plus water, salt and olive oil for cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup heavy cream. You can also use half-and-half.
  • 3 teaspoons hot sauce (Tabasco)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg (about ⅛ teaspoon)
  • 7 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add salt and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, and then drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan, over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the broth, pumpkin and cream. Mix in the hot sauce, salt, pepper and nutmeg and lower the heat to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the sage, then add the pasta and toss to coat. 
  5. Serve with shaved or grated parmesan.

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