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The most delicious fall pumpkin pasta: One of our all-time favorite fall pasta recipes, this dish combines pasta shells with chunks of roasted butternut or kabocha squash, a Parmesan garlic cream sauce and fresh thyme. If you buy precut squash, it requires just a few minutes prep before cooking. This is the ultimate comforting vegetarian pasta recipe!
This luscious pumpkin pasta combines pantry dried pasta with sweet, roasted winter squash and an incredibly savory creamy garlic sauce.
It’s just the kind of comfort food pasta recipe we crave, right along with classic pasta carbonara or an easy, totally delicious pappardelle with portobello mushroom ragu, which is another of my vegetarian pasta recipes that gets rave reviews!
Italian pumpkin pastas
Italians, especially in the Veneto, have a long tradition of making pumpkin pasta and risottos with zucca that have pale to dark green skin. I’ve always loved the contrast of roasted butternut squash with pasta and cream.
The natural sweetness of creamy-textured roasted squash, combined with ingredients like cream and aromatic herbs is delicious and tastes really luxurious. The sauce is captured in the pasta shells, or a similar short pasta shape.
Which pumpkin to use for pumpkin pasta
There’s more to pumpkins than those perfectly round orange specimens (think jack-o’-lanterns) which are actually a variety called sugar pumpkin.
- Butternut squash is an easy to find winter squash to use in 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.
- Kabocha is a culinary variety of 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. You can often find frozen cut-up chunks of frozen kabocha and butternut squash in grocery stores. That means making this recipe is that much easier!
As for the familiar decorative pumpkins we see in the fall, they might be good for pies and the front stoop around Halloween, but I don’t recommend them for this recipes. The flesh tends to be too watery and not as as sweet as other types of winter squash.
How to cut and peel a winter or butternut squash:
If you do have a fresh whole squash, here’s how to get it prepped for cooking:
- Set the squash on a cutting board.
- Slice off the stem end and bottom of the squash.
- For a butternut squash, make a slice between the bulb end and the long neck.
- If slicing a round squash like a pumpkin or kabocha, insert the tip of a sharp chef’s knife at a 45-degree angle at the stem. See-saw the knife while very firmly moving the knife downward. Repeat on the other side of the squash.
- Remove the seeds from each half with a spoon.
- 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 pasta recipes to love:
- Rigatoni with Delicata Squash
- Creamy White Bean and Turkey Pumpkin Chili
- Harvest Vegetable Salad with Chimichurri Sauce
- Creamy Butternut Squash Soup (Dairy-free)
Roasted Pumpkin Pasta in Parmesan Cream Sauce
- 2 pounds (900 g) winter squash, approximately half of 1 medium kabocha or butternut squash, or 4-5 cups pre-cut squash
- ¼ cup (40 g) finely chopped onion
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups (375 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 sprigs thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped
- ¾ cup (75 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces (225 g) dried pasta shells, or other type of short pasta
- 1½ cups (100 g) baby kale or spinach leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- If using a whole squash, peel it, remove the seeds and slice into 1-inch chunks.
- 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.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Add a few tablespoons cream and/or vegetable broth before reheating.
- Tip: Look in your grocery store for 1-pound bags of cut-up frozen kabocha or butternut squash to make this recipe even quicker to make.