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Pumpkin Pasta in Parmesan Garlic Cream Sauce

4.51 from 67 votes

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The most delicious fall pasta, with roasted squash, pasta shells and a thyme-infused garlic cream sauce.

Photo of a gray speckled bowl with pasta shells in a creamy sauce with roasted orange winter squash, kale and parmesan cheese.

This luscious pasta combines roasted kabocha squash in an incredibly savory creamy garlic sauce.

It’s just the kind of comfort food pasta recipe we crave, right along with an easy, totally delicious Pappardelle with Portobello Mushroom Ragu.

Italian Pumpkin pastas

Italians, especially in the Veneto, have a long tradition of making pastas and risottos with zucca that have pale to dark green skin.

I’ve always loved the contrast of creamy pasta with pumpkin or butternut squash.

The natural sweetness of the vegetable combined with ingredients like cream and aromatic herbs is delicious and really luxurious.

kabocha squash cut in half

But there’s more to pumpkins than those perfectly round orange specimens (think jack-o’-lanterns) which are actually a variety called sugar pumpkin.

Which pumpkin to use for pumpkin pasta

Try butternut squash to make this recipe.

Or, if you’re lucky to find winter squashes at your local farmer’s market, Blue Hubbard  is another great variety to look for.

As for the familiar pumpkins we see in the fall…

They might be good for decorating around Halloween, but they don’t really taste very good to eat.

That’s because they’re bred to look pretty on front stoops and scattered around hay bales.

Photo of a gray speckled bowl with pasta shells in a creamy sauce with roasted orange winter squash, kale and parmesan cheese.

Kabocha is the pumpkin I look forward to when fall rolls around, at least for cooking purposes.

It’s a Japanese winter squash variety with beautiful, dense, deep-orange flesh that cooks up velvety and firm-textured.

Heads up — I’ve noticed that many grocery stores sell 1-pound bags of cut-up frozen kabocha!

That means making this recipe is that much easier.

How to cut and peel a kabocha squash:

If you do have a whole squash, here’s how to deal with it:

  1. Set the squash on a kitchen towel on a cutting board.
  2. Pull off the stem (or just leave it on if it’s firmly attached).
  3. Insert the tip of a heavy (sharp!) chef’s knife at a 45-degree angle at the stem.
  4. See-saw the knife while very firmly moving the knife downward. Repeat on the other side of the squash.
  5. Remove the seeds from each half with a spoon.
  6. Slice each half into wedges. Peel the squash with a swivel peeler or use your knife: lay each wedge on its side and shave off the skin as close to the flesh as you can with your chef’s knife.

More fall dishes to love:

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Pumpkin Pasta in Parmesan Garlic Cream Sauce

Karen Tedesco
The most delicious fall pumpkin pasta: Pasta shells with roasted squash and a thyme-infused Parmesan garlic cream sauce. Simple and luscious!
Print Pin
4.51 from 67 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Pasta
Cuisine Vegetarian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (900 g) kabocha squash, approximately half of 1 medium kabocha or butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 sprigs thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces (225 g) dried pasta shells
  • 1 1/2 cups (100 g) baby kale or spinach leaves

Instructions 

  • Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1-inch chunks. 
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine the squash and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 10 or 12 grinds of black pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove the foil and stir the squash around with a spatula. Roast 15 minutes more, or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
  • Pour the cream into a saucepan. Drop in the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs and bring to a simmer — lower the heat and watch that it doesn't boil over. Simmer 20 minutes, until the cream is slightly reduced and the garlic is soft. Remove from the heat and steep 10 minutes, then remove the garlic and thyme. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl with the butter and keep warm.
  • Bring a 6 quart pot of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the bowl with the sauce.
  • Add the squash and baby greens to the bowl and gently stir everything together until evenly coated with the sauce. Serve with the remaining cheese and chopped thyme sprinkled over the top.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 837kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 53g | Saturated Fat: 26g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 361mg | Potassium: 1159mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 28101IU | Vitamin C: 81mg | Calcium: 448mg | Iron: 3mg
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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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23 Comments

  1. Hello! I am so glad I came across this recipe, looking forward to trying it! I was wondering if frozen squash would work?

      1. Thanks! Does that adjust the cooking time or cooking process?

  2. 5 stars
    Amazing! So delicious. Used butternut squash and spinach. I also changed measurements on the sauce to our preference.

  3. 4 stars
    Amazing recipe!! ive never made pumpkin before this, so i absolutely messed up some parts. i put way too much pumkin and too little cream and pasta, so its very thick and VERY filling.. could not eat alot of it. tasted absolutely wonderful though!

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious! I also learned that kabocha is now my new favorite squash. My 90 year old father, a meat and potatoes guy, agrees😁.

    1. That’s fantastic!! I know once I discovered kabocha it was life changing. So glad your dad enjoyed it too!

  5. For those who don’t like waste, I recommend leaving the skin on. After it has cooked that long, it basically smushes like the rest of the squash. Plus it has extra nutrients 🙂

  6. Does this freeze well? I made it tonight and it was delicious; so creamy! But there’s far too much for me, it would take me like a week to eat it all!

    1. Yes, you can freeze it. The sauce might thicken a bit – just add a few tablespoons water or broth when you reheat.

  7. Have you ever tried this with a protein? Do you think chicken or bacon world work well with this? Thanks so much for sharing what sounds like a super yummy recipe!

    1. Hi Laurel – A good vegetarian protein option would be chickpeas. A simple grilled chicken breast, quickly cooked garlic shrimp or bacon would be great too!

  8. Accidentally mixed this with a full pound of pasta and it was way too dry. Even after adding broth to the sauce before mixing with the pasta

    1. I would recommend doubling the recipe for a pound of pasta – the sauce is perfect for 8 ounces (1/2 pound)

  9. This pasta was the bomb. My wife loved it. This recipe is a definite keeper.

  10. I use sugar pumpkins to make homemade pumpkin pie. I disagree that they’re just for decorations. My pies are a family favorite and I am often asked for the recipes I use.

    1. Mary – You must be a talented baker – your family is lucky to have you! I’ve never had luck with the sugar pumpkins. How do you prepare your filling?

  11. Charity MacPherson says:

    Do you think you could substitute almond milk or cashew cream for the whipping cream? Looks delish, can’t wait to make it

    1. Hi Charity – I haven’t tried this recipe with non-dairy options, but if I were to substitute with one of those I’d go with the cashew cream because almond milk will be too watery. If your cream is very thick (sometimes cashew cream can be), thin it out with a tablespoon or so of vegetable stock so it’s the consistency of thick cream. Let me know how it goes!

  12. This was soooo good! I’m on my own tonight but can’t wait to make it for the whole family!