Cozy up this fall with a bowl of creamy pumpkin pasta. Cooked pasta is layered in a casserole dish with a béchamel sauce, pumpkin butter ricotta cheese, and shredded Italian cheeses. It’s then baked in the oven and topped with fried sage leaves, crunchy bits of pancetta, and buttered cracker crumbs creating the most delicious, comforting fall meal.
Fall is all about coziness and comfort food. When I think of fall comfort food, two things come to mind…pumpkin and pasta! There is nothing more filling and comforting than a big bowl of hearty pasta. Add in some pumpkin and you have an amazing fall meal that the whole family will devour!
Typically, most people associate pumpkin flavors with sweet fall treats or desserts (check out my 3 ingredient pumpkin muffins). But pumpkin is also yummy and delicious in savory dishes too. The funny thing about this recipe I created? I used a jar of of sweet spiced pumpkin butter to create the savory pumpkin ricotta cheese mixture for our creamy pumpkin pasta. (We’ll talk more about this in a minute!)
This recipe is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight for dinner but also decadent enough to be served as a side dish next to the Thanksgiving turkey. Either way, give this comforting fall dish a try, your family is going to love it!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Ingredients
- Short cut pasta: I used Eliconi pasta which is essentially just a larger rotini shaped pasta.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Spiced pumpkin butter: A can of pumpkin puree could be used in place of pumpkin butter.
- Chicken broth: Vegetable broth could be used for an all vegetarian dish.
- Milk: Light cream or half & half could be substituted for a richer sauce.
- Shredded Italian cheeses: I used a bag of shredded provolone, asiago, parmesan, & fontina cheese.
- Ricotta cheese: I like whole milk ricotta for this recipe.
For the Pasta Topping:
- Sage leaves
- Diced pancetta
- Crushed, buttered saltine crackers: To make this cracker topping, combine about 1/4 cup melted butter with 1 cup crushed saltine crackers. Mix together until crackers are coated in buttery goodness.
- Shredded Italian cheeses (same as above)
What is spiced pumpkin butter?
Pumpkin butter is a fall fruit spread. Did you know pumpkin is actually a fruit?! I did not until recently! Pumpkin butter is made from pumpkin puree with the addition of warm & sweet spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.) along with a sweetener such as brown sugar or honey.
It tastes similar to pumpkin pie and can be used as a spread on toast, crackers, biscuits, ice cream, or just about anything you can think of.
I decided to use pumpkin butter in a more savory way by adding it to our creamy pumpkin pasta. Pumpkin butter is sweet, however when you combine it with the right savory ingredients, the balance of sweet and saltiness is absolutely delicious.
How to Make Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Begin by cooking your short cut pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain.
While the pasta cooks, add olive oil to a frying pan and cook the diced pancetta. Once the pancetta is crispy and brown, remove from pan with a slotted spoon (keep as much of the fat renderings in the pan as possible) and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
In the olive oil/pancetta renderings, add a handful of sage leaves and fry until crispy (this only takes a minute or so). Once crispy, place the sage leaves on the paper toweled line plate along with the pancetta.
Add flour to the oil and stir to combine. Cook roux for about 1 minute. Slowly pour chicken broth and milk into the roux, whisking as you pour to prevent lumps of flour. Cook on medium heat, whisking occasionally, until sauce bubbles and begins to thicken to create the béchamel sauce. Remove béchamel sauce from heat once thickened.
In a mixing bowl, combine spiced pumpkin butter, ricotta cheese, Italian cheeses, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
Assembling Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Begin by evenly spreading a 1/3 of the béchamel sauce to the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (these are some of my favorite baking dishes).
Place 1/3 of the cooked pasta in an even layer on top of the béchamel. Then evenly spread 1/3 of the pumpkin ricotta mixture on the pasta, with 1/3 of the shredded Italian cheeses on top of that.
Continue layering the béchamel sauce, pasta, pumpkin ricotta, and cheeses in 1/3’s. Finish the top of the pumpkin pasta casserole with shredded cheese.
Bake creamy pumpkin pasta in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and top & corners are browned.
Serving Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Allow casserole to cool for about 10 minutes. Garnish top of pasta casserole with a few fried sage leaves.
Serve creamy pumpkin pasta in a bowl (a bowl gives more room for hearty helpings!) then top with a dollop of pumpkin butter, pancetta crumbles, crushed crackers, shredded Italian cheese, and a couple of fried sage leaves for garnish.
Enjoy the comforting pumpkin pasta goodness. You will definitely go back for seconds!
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Pro Tips
- Cook the pasta to al dente. The pasta will continue cooking in the oven.
- Other short cut pastas that would work well in this dish; farfalle, ziti, rigatoni, cavatappi, or penne.
- Take the help from the store and buy pancetta that is already diced.
- Frying the pancetta and the sage leaves first, will add depth of flavor to the béchamel sauce.
- Taste the spiced pumpkin butter before adding to the ricotta cheese. The pumpkin butter I used was not overly sweet. If your pumpkin butter is super sweet you may want to use less in this recipe.
- Add chopped cooked chicken breast or turkey breast to this dish for added protein.
- Pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts would be a great crunchy topping too!
Storing Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Leftovers
Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
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