Cozy up with a bowl of this creamy pumpkin pasta. It’s made all in one pot in under 30 minutes! Even better, it’s vegan, naturally creamy from pumpkin puree and starchy pasta water. You’ll love how easy it is for a quick dinner!
And here I am, obsessing over this savory pumpkin pasta dish. And making this one-pot wonder every night from here on out.
Not only because it’s SO easy to make and ready in under 30 minutes, but it’s absolutely delicious. With the creamy pumpkin sauce that’s basically healthy and all the good things because it’s pumpkin filled with warm herbs and spices. Not to mention this recipe is also dairy-free (as long as you use olive oil to saute), which means it’s dietary friendly, no matter your friends or family’s needs.
All of that aside, it’s just comforting, satisfying, and absolutely scrumptious. You don’t really need any other reason to enjoy this pasta for easy weeknight dinners or date nights at home with a glass (ok, or bottle) of wine. Enough raving, let’s get to cooking!
Ingredients and Substitutions for Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
As with so many of my favorite vegetarian dinner recipes, this one requires a few grocery basics that I’m sure you have on hand (you know, those spices that you only pull out when it’s fall anyway). Let’s dive into what you’ll need to make this recipe.
- Butter or Olive Oil: when it comes to pasta, I love sauteeing the onions and garlic in butter. However, for this recipe you can use either. Using olive oil will keep this pasta vegan, but if you have butter and what to use it, go for it. There’s no other dairy in the recipe!
- Yellow Onion: all about the flavor here, this is what we build with. Yellow onion is mild and slightly sweet, which means its flavor melds into the pasta and basically goes unnoticed. You could also use shallot, but keep in mind those will need less time to cook.
- Garlic: a given!
- Spices: alright, there are a lot of warm spices in this recipe, and a few more savory ones, to really play off of the pumpkin flavor. Pumpkin is naturally pretty flavorless, so these spices help to bring out its flavor notes. We have cinnamon, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, ground ginger, salt, and pepper. For the spicy ones, you can adjust the amount as you prefer.
- Fresh Sage and Thyme: I highly recommend grabbing some fresh herbs for this recipe because they deliver SO MUCH flavor. However, I understand that in real life, between X-Y-and-Z, you might need an even faster dinner and not have time to go get fresh herbs. In which case, you can substitute dry, but promise me you’ll make it with fresh herbs the next time.
- White Wine and Vegetable Stock: ok, the white wine is totally optional in this recipe, however, it adds a perfect uniqueness of flavor to deglaze the pan with, and all of the alcohol burns off in cooking. Go ahead and use it if you have it on hand (ahem, it also tastes delish with the pasta!) or just sub vegetable stock for it. The pasta also cooks in vegetable stock for more flavor, but feel free to substitute with half water if needed.
- You can use vegetable broth too, it just generally has salt already added, so be sure to check before you add more!
- Pumpkin Puree: this is how we make creamy pasta without cream — add in pumpkin puree! We are not talking about pumpkin pie filling here. Make sure it’s 100% pure pumpkin puree. It’s creamy and like I said, pretty mellow tasting, letting those spices shine.
What kind of pasta should I use?
Now, for the noodles. You didn’t think I forgot all about the actual pasta part of this recipe, did you? No, not at all!
As pictured, I love using rigatoni noodles for this recipe. They hold the sauce really well with their tube-like shape. Spiral pasta, like rotini, is also fun and holds the sauce well.
You can use whichever pasta shape you might have on hand, noting that the cooking time and water absorption may vary slightly depending on the shape you use.
How to Make This One-Pan Pasta
If you’ve ever wondered if you can cook noodles in the sauce, the answer is yes! As long as you have enough liquid in the sauce for it to absorb. This is exactly what we’re doing to make this creamy pasta: assembling the sauce, then cooking the noodles in it.
As with all of my favorite pasta recipes, begin by sauteeing diced onion in olive oil or butter. Then add the garlic, letting it cook for a minute until fragrant.
Begin layering in the salt with the aromatics. It’s important to be sure we’re adding salt throughout the cooking process to build upon the flavors (salt brings them out!).
Then go in the spices. Stir to coat the aromatics, and let the spices toast for about thirty seconds, then add in the freshly chopped herbs. Next up, deglaze the pan with white wine, or use vegetable stock.
Once the wine has reduced down, add the remaining vegetable stock and bring to a boil before adding the noodles.
Once the noodles are added to the boiling sauce, it’s important to stir often so they cook evenly.
Take note of the package directions, because that will be important for your cook time. Several minutes before the pasta reaches al dente – I like to go about 3 or 4 minutes out to make sure the pasta doesn’t get overcooked – add the pumpkin puree.
Stir it in completely, and allow the sauce to boil and the noodles to cook.
If the sauce seems extra saucy, you can remove a few tablespoons from the Dutch oven and make a corn starch slurry. That’s a fancy way of saying mix the corn starch and sauce together. Then add it back to the pot to boil. I prefer a thicker sauce and generally do this, however, if you like a thinner sauce, you may consider skipping this step.
The cooking process of the pasta releases starches, which help to naturally thicken the sauce. As it finishes cooking, it will become slightly thicker.
The pasta will be HOT once it’s reached the al dente point, so let it cool slightly before digging in. You may even want to consider transferring to a serving bowl to further cool and stop the cooking process.
Alright, alright, alright. You probably shouldn’t have this pasta without breadcrumbs. And parmesan breadcrumbs take it over the top (to keep it vegan, use Nooch or vegan parmesan). It adds a crunch (you know I’m all about texture) and completely elevates this dish!
They’re easy to toast up as the pasta cooks, or cools down, and you can save any leftover breadcrumbs for later. Just toss the toasted breadcrumbs with grated parmesan cheese. It’s truly a win-win!
What to Serve this With
I love it all on its own (which if you’ve been a long-time reader, then I’m sure you could’ve guessed that!). There are quite a few delicious options to serve along with this pasta that make it a more complete meal for the family!
- Roasted Broccolini
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower
- Parmesan Crusted Rosemary Fish (if you’re a pescatarian or meat-eater)
- Roasted Zucchini
Ok, I know it’s probably inconvenient to only use a little more than half of the can of pumpkin. You can just add it into the sauce to make it even more pumpkin-heavy, you can save it to make cookies, or toss it with some yogurt and cinnamon granola for breakfast. You can also save it for another recipe like pumpkin curry.
No, it’s not. Pumpkin is pretty mild itself, and the spices and herbs come together to create a warm, comforting sauce that has a hint of sweetness and a lot of savory.
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or on the stove. Pasta does absorb the leftover sauce as it sits, changing the texture and flavor slightly. I would recommend reheating with additional vegetable stock or pumpkin puree.
Yes, you sure can! That eliminates the half bag/box of pasta and you can just use the whole can of pumpkin (I honestly wouldn’t worry about that 1 missing ounce). Be sure to watch carefully to adjust the liquid amount if needed.
I haven’t tried it myself but I’m sure you could! Let us know how it turns out if you do!
I am sure you could use gluten-free pasta, as long as you take note of the package directions and cook time. I haven’t tried it myself so unfortunately, I can’t speak much more about it. Let us know how it turns out if you try it!
One-Pot Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pasta
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup yellow onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or a pinch for less kick
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon fresh sage finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1/4 cup white wine or vegetable stock
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 8 ounces rigatoni pasta or a similar shape
- 1/2 Tablespoon corn starch optional
- 1 cup 100% pumpkin puree not pumpkin pie filling
- Heat olive oil or melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for about 2 minutes. Add garlic, continuing to saute for another minute. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and ground ginger, allowing them to toast for approximately 30 seconds. Stir in the fresh herbs.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine or 1/4 cup vegetable stock, scraping up any golden brown bits. Add the remaining vegetable stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Cook the pasta a few minutes shy of al dente (check the package directions). Be sure to taste test the sauce for salt levels.
- Optional: remove a few tablespoons of the liquid and place in a small bowl. Stir with corn starch if you prefer a thicker sauce. Stir the corn starch slurry into the pasta sauce right before adding the pumpkin puree.
- With 3-4 minutes remaining of the pasta cook time, stir in the pumpkin puree until completely combined. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, remove the pan from heat and let cool slightly. It will be very hot. You may want to transfer to a serving bowl to cool more quickly and stop any further cooking.
- Top with breadcrumbs as desired (see notes for recipe), and additional fresh sage and thyme for garnish. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: this recipe makes two large servings or 4 smaller servings, which would be great as a side with a hearty main dish.
- Parmesan Breadcrumbs: In a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 cup panko breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, stirring to completely coat. Cook for 3-4 minutes to toast. Remove from heat; once completely cooled, stir in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese or nooch. Store remaining breadcrumbs in an airtight container in the fridge.