Creamy pumpkin pasta sauce is the stuff that pasta dreams are made of. This fast and easy sauce is full of pumpkin, sage, nutmeg, garlic, onion, a touch of cream, and some crumbled sweet Italian sausage.
It clings to your pasta and coats every bite with the most delicious sweet and savory flavors. Of course, it’s perfect for a fall meal, but as long as you have an extra can of pureed pumpkin, you can make this luscious pumpkin pasta sauce anytime.
Why This Recipe Works
This pumpkin pasta sauce is a nice change from tomato sauce — as much as I really do love my 3-ingredient homemade pasta sauce. It’s rich, creamy, and an unexpected way to take a simple pasta dinner to a new level.
Even though it looks and tastes extra-special, this recipe comes together in about 30 minutes.
And it’s good for you because pumpkin is packed with antioxidants from a boatload of beta-carotene. It’s one of those superfoods worth eating all year because the nutrients in pumpkin support healthy eyesight, reduce your risk of cancer, and promote healthy blood pressure.
Here are the key ingredients I use to make my pumpkin pasta sauce. Substitutions and some variations are listed in the section below.
See my recipe card for the complete list of ingredients with measurements.
Substitutions and Variations
A good quality blue cheese like Stilton or Gorgonzola Dolce is AMAZING in this sauce.
Instead of sausage, try adding shredded rotisserie chicken or ground beef, or leave the meat out and keep it vegetarian. You can also serve the meatless sauce with cheese or meat ravioli.
If you don’t have hazelnuts, chopped walnuts are a great substitution.
You can also swap butternut squash for the pumpkin. If you find pureed squash in a can, use that. Otherwise, an easy option is frozen butternut squash cubes. Steam them and puree them in a food processor or blender.
Best Pasta Shapes For Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
You can use any pasta you have on hand for this recipe, but personally, I like penne or rigatoni because the sauce collects in the tubes. Other good pasta shapes that capture lots of this yummy sauce include:
- Farfalle (bowtie)
Step By Step Instructions
First, cook your pasta in salted water until it's al dente. Check the package directions because cooking times depend on your pasta shape. Drain the pasta and set it aside. While the pasta is cooking, saute your onion and garlic, and then add the sausage, breaking it up well.
Second, add tomato sauce and spices. Stir everything together for about 30 seconds, just until it's fragrant.
Third, add the pumpkin and chicken stock and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the cream and then the cheese.
Fourth, fold in the warm pasta and stir well so everything is coated with the sauce. Add the chopped nuts and garnish with extra fresh sage.
- Salt your pasta water before adding the pasta. It always makes pasta taste better.
- Reserve about ½ cup of pasta water in case you need to thin out the sauce. NOTE: you can also add extra chicken stock instead of pasta water.
- Cook your pasta until it’s just al dente. It will soften up a little more when you add it to the sauce.
- The sauce will tighten up as it cools, so don’t worry if the pasta seems like it has too much sauce.
- When you add the cream to the sauce, turn the heat to low so the cream doesn’t curdle.
- If you want to use half and half instead of heavy cream, temper it first by slowly adding about ¼ cup of the hot sauce to the half and half. Then, add the mixture to the pan. This reduces the chance of curdling.
You can make the pumpkin pasta sauce ahead of time and cook the pasta in advance. But don't combine the sauce with the pasta until you're ready to serve.
Keep the sauce in the refrigerator and reheat it on medium-low in a large saucepan when ready to serve. Put the cooked pasta in a colander and run it under hot water to warm and moisten it, then add the pasta to the hot sauce.
Refrigerate it in a covered container for up to three days. Warm it in the microwave, and if the pasta seems dry when you reheat it, add a bit of chicken stock.
Pumpkin has a slightly sweet but earthy flavor. It's a member of the squash family and tastes very much like acorn or butternut squash.
Related Pasta Recipes
Do you love pasta? Don't miss these other easy and delicious pasta recipes.
Note: I originally developed this recipe for the National Pasta Association. I retested and updated it to make it even more delicious!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- 8 ounces pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- ½ pound sweet Italian sausage chicken or turkey
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup chicken stock low sodium
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and extra to serve if desired
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts toasted
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage and parsley
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan and cook the pasta according to package directions until it is al dente. Drain the pasta (reserve about ¼ cup of pasta water) and set it aside as you prepare the sauce.
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until light golden brown. Add the garlic.
- Remove the sausage from the casings, add it to the pan and break up with a spatula. Cook sausage until browned and no longer pink.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and add the tomato paste, dried sage, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
- Add the pumpkin puree and chicken stock. Stir the sauce to combine. Let the sauce heat through until it starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream and stir again.
- Turn off the heat and add the 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste.
- Fold in the pasta, and if the sauce needs to be loosened a bit, add pasta water or extra chicken stock, a few tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Top the pasta with chopped toasted hazelnuts, minced fresh sage and parsley. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.