Pumpkin Pasta with Spinach
on Sep 28, 2023
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This 20-minute pumpkin pasta recipe will have you convinced that you should have a can of pumpkin puree in your pantry at all times. You can cook the pasta and simmer the sauce on burners next to each other on the stove for easy multitasking. Then when the pasta is almost ready you stir in baby spinach, walnuts and parmesan cheese.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This is a quick and easy pasta dish that’s perfect for a weeknight. It’s so handy to have seasonal options when it comes to pasta. Then you can include them in your dinner rotation depending on the time of the year.
Pumpkin puree and noodles are both pantry ingredients. When you first spot cans of this magical puree on grocery shelves pre-fall, I recommend buying more than one. Save a can for baking then use another to make savory recipes. Because it’s a puree, it feels like you have skipped a few steps to get it to the point of being sauce for pasta.
You don’t need actual cream to make creamy pumpkin pasta. Canned pumpkin lends itself to that silky consistency. Between vegetable broth, a little milk and some cooking water from the pasta, you end up with this lighter version of comfort food.
There’s no better way to say fall than with pumpkin puree. Even through you may cringe that Starbucks debuts their pumpkin drinks earlier every year, go ahead and settle into savory pumpkin recipes from September through November.
This is what you need:
- Pumpkin puree: Make sure you are buying a can with 100% pumpkin and no other ingredients.
- Pasta: For long noodles, I prefer tagliatelle or fettuccine since they are wider than spaghetti. If you like short pasta shapes, you can use penne, rigatoni or cavatappi.
- Shallots are more delicate and mild in flavor than onions. Also when you sauté them in oil, they breakdown more than standard chopped onions.
- Garlic: On its own, pumpkin is not sweet or savory, but it’s important to layer in flavors to put it firmly in the savory category. Minced garlic is an important component of that.
- Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper season the pumpkin sauce and give it a touch of heat.
- Spinach: It’s simple to take advantage of the heat in a pasta dish to stir in greens. They gently wilt, and you can easily incorporate them into the noodles. If you want heartier greens than baby spinach, you can substitute with chopped kale.
- Vegetable broth thins the sauce giving it a more pourable consistency that does a good job coating the noodles. I also use some of the pasta cooking water to do this because of the starch content.
- Milk adds a little creaminess along with the reserved pasta water. You can use whatever type of milk you have in your fridge. If you are looking for richness, use heavy cream, but I don’t think it’s worth buying a carton just for this recipe.
- Parmesan: The pasta is finished with grated Parmesan. Once you plate it, you can top it with more cheese.
- Walnuts: For nutty crunch, I stir in chopped toasted walnuts. You can substitute with almonds, pecans or pine nuts.
- Olive oil: I sauté the shallots in extra-virgin olive oil for the best taste.
- Fresh sage leaves: This is probably the fresh herb most associated with pumpkin.
- Italian sausage: Take 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage out of its casings. Then sauté it over medium high heat for 5 minutes, breaking it up as it cooks. Take it out of the pan, and then you can use that same pan to make the sauce. Just lower the heat to medium. Then stir the sausage back in with the pasta.
How To Make Pumpkin Pasta
1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Look at the recommended package cook time for al dente pasta and simmer the noodles 1 minute less than that. Make sure to stir the noodles periodically as they simmer. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots. You can do this in a large skillet or sauté pan. Give the shallots 3-4 minutes to soften. Remember that you can cook the pasta and the sauce at the same time.
3. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. They will become fragrant in 1-2 minutes.
4. Pour in the pumpkin puree, vegetable broth and milk. Simmer for 5-7 minutes to thicken the sauce.
5. Stir in the cooked pasta and reserved water. Simmer it all together for 1-2 minutes. This gives the pasta the time to go from slightly undercooked to al dente.
6. Fold in the baby spinach, Parmesan and walnuts. Plate the noodles and sprinkle with additional parmesan, walnuts and black pepper.
I have 2 go-to salads with almost all pasta dishes, and they work with pumpkin too. Try this arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette or this Italian chopped salad. Since this is a very saucy pasta, a hunk of country bread with a good crust is perfect for dipping. For a vegetable side dish, roasted green beans or roasted crispy brussels sprouts are both good options.
You can make the pumpkin sauce up to 2 days in advance. Let it cool to room temperature before storing the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. Then when you are ready, warm it in a pan over low to medium heat while you simmer the pasta.
Leftovers & Storage
This pumpkin pasta is best eaten warm right when you make it. If you do have leftovers, you can keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Warm them in a skillet on stove over low heat, stirring frequently. Or you can warm them in the microwave. When you reheat leftover pasta, it will lose some of its al dente bite.
Cook your pasta a minute less than al dente. Since the noodles simmer in the pumpkin sauce, you want to let them finish cooking in the sauce.
You can multi-task and cook the pasta at the same time as the sauce. Just use side-by-side burners on the stove. I like to use tongs to transfer the pasta from the pot to the sauce. Then you can ladle the pasta water in too.
Use plant-based, dairy-free milk in the sauce. Instead of stirring Parmesan cheese into the pasta, sprinkle in nutritional yeast.
Yes. If you want to change the balance of this pasta dish to have more spinach go for it.
The pumpkin pasta sauce on its own is gluten-free, so just use gluten-free pasta like chickpea pasta or lentil pasta.
More Pasta Recipes
Pumpkin Pasta with Spinach
- 8 ounces fettuccine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus more for serving
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts plus more for serving
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water 1 minute less than the recommended al dente cook time on the package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain.
- In a large skillet or sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until they start to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, cooking for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour in the pumpkin puree, vegetable broth and milk. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the pasta and reserved cooking water. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Fold in the spinach, Parmesan and walnuts.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.