Cheesy pumpkin pasta bake with mushrooms, spinach, creamy pumpkin tomato sauce, and a buttery walnut-sage topping. This baked pumpkin pasta sneaks veggies into every bite and will surely be a fall favorite.
Why You'll Love this Pumpkin Pasta Bake:
This dish combines some of the most beloved fall flavors: pumpkin, warm spices, and earthy herbs. And between the creamy pumpkin sauce and cheesy attributes, I can confidently say it's healthy comfort food at its finest.
It's also the tastiest way to sneak in loads of nutrient-rich veggies like pumpkin, tomatoes, mushrooms, greens, and onion. It's so hearty that even the most devout carnivores will swoon over this vegetarian pasta.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:
- Pumpkin Puree: You need one 15-oz. can of pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling), which adds quintessential fall flavor and creaminess. I use Libby’s canned pumpkin puree, which has the best texture and flavor.
- Pasta: Any pasta shape will do the job here, however avoid using long strands like spaghetti or linguine. I personally love using Mezza rigatoni, which is just a smaller size of rigatoni. Other suitable shapes include shells, ziti or any other tubular pasta, fusilli, or farfalle.
- Tomato Paste: Most vegetarian pastas need some sort of umami booster, and tomato paste is my go-to. The key is to cook down the tomato paste until it turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan. This helps unlock its full flavor potential, which makes the pasta infinitely more savory.
- Veggies: For meaty texture and more umami flavor, cremini mushrooms do double duty here. I also love adding some kind of green, which adds a pop a color and slew of nutrients. Fresh baby spinach or chopped lacinato kale work best.
- Broth: If you're making this dish vegetarian, obviously go for vegetable broth. Otherwise, chicken or bone broth will also work fine.
- Herbs/Spices: A mix of fresh sage and dried rosemary add earthy flavor with peppery undertones. Also in the mix is red pepper flakes and a dash of nutmeg for spice.
- Cheese: This pumpkin pasta bake calls for two types of cheese: grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, as well as freshly shredded fontina. Fontina is soft and creamy with a mild, nutty flavor, which is a fabulous complement to the pumpkin. Alternatively, you can use shredded Gruyere, which is a bit more assertive, but equally delicious.
- Walnuts: The finishing touch on this baked pumpkin pasta is a buttery walnut-sage topping. (And trust me, you don't want to skip this part!) This topping adds so much richness, as well as welcomed crunch. Plus, walnuts are a fabulous source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Step 1: Boil the Pasta
Fill a large stock pot or Dutch oven with salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes SHY of al dente. (The pasta should still be firm, though tender enough to bite through.) Drain the pasta into a strainer and set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the Walnut-Sage Topping
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoon of unsalted butter over medium heat. Once hot, add the walnuts and sage, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the walnuts are toasted and aromatic. Season with a pinch of salt, and transfer mixture to a bowl.
Step 3: Cook Aromatics
Place the pan back over the burner and increase the heat to medium-high. Once hot, add 2 tablespoon olive oil, along with mushrooms and onion. Cook for 8 minutes, or until soft.
Next, stir in tomato paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook mixture for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan.
Step 4: Add Spinach and Spices
Add the spinach in two separate increments, stirring constantly until spinach wilts down. Season mixture with oregano, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 1 tsp. sage.
Step 5: Add Pumpkin, Broth, Cheese, and Pasta
Deglaze the pan with vegetable broth. Next, stir in the pumpkin puree, Parmesan (or Pecorino) cheese, and shredded fontina cheese. Mix well until the fontina cheese melts into the sauce.
Once the sauce is creamy and well-combined, stir in the cooked pasta.
Step 6: Bake Pumpkin Pasta
Transfer the mixture to a large greased baking dish. Sprinkle remaining fontina cheese overtop, along with buttery walnut-sage topping.
Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 5 to 10 more minutes, until cheese is completely melted and golden. Garnish with additional Parmesan (or Pecorino), if desired, before serving.
How to Store and Reheat Baked Pumpkin Pasta:
I love prepping a batch at the beginning of the week and enjoying the leftovers when I need a quick, tasty meal. It reheats like a dream!
- To Store. Store cooked leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Freeze. Place cooled pasta in an airtight freezer-safe container (or ziptop storage bag) in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Reheat. If reheating from frozen, let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat single servings in the microwave with a splash of broth to keep it from drying out. Alternatively, you can reheat the pasta right in the casserole dish in a 350ºF oven until warm throughout.
What to Eat with Pasta Bake:
This pasta is plenty satiating on it’s own, however it also pairs well with a salad, roasted veggies, or bread. Here are a few of my favorite pairings:
- Salad: You can’t beat this 10-Minute Warm Brussels Salad as a speedy, crunchy compliment. Alternatively, this Winter Chopped Salad with White Balsamic is a guaranteed show stopper.
- Veggies: For an extra dose of veggie goodness, serve this pasta with a side of roasted or sautéed veggies. I especially love it with Sautéed Broccoli or these Crispy Brussels with Maple-Mustard Glaze.
- Bread: Garlic bread, crusty Italian bread, or fresh sourdough are always welcome on my table for pasta night!
Recommended Tools to Make Baked Pasta:
- Sturdy non-slip cutting board. The best cutting board for all your slicing and dicing needs. I use it every single day for all my cooking ventures.
- Cheese grater. I use this box grater, which makes for effortless, efficient grating.
- Baking dish: Staub makes the best of the best ceramic bakeware. They're easy to clean and incredibly durable. I've had mine for YEARS and they still function as brand new.
- Stockpot. This one has a removable strainer insert, which is so convenient for removing the pasta with ease.
More Baked Pasta Recipes to Try:
Pasta Bake with Pumpkin Tomato Sauce
- Large baking dish
- Stockpot or Dutch oven
- Large sauté pan
- 1 lb. dry pasta of choice (such as mezzi rigatoni, shells, ziti or any other tubular pasta, fusilli, or farfalle)
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage leaves, divided
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 8 oz. cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 3 to 4 handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin purée
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for topping
- 1 ½ cups freshly shredded fontina cheese, divided
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until 2 minutes SHY of al dente. (The pasta should still be firm, though tender enough to bite through.) Drain the pasta into a strainer and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the walnuts and 1 Tbsp. sage; cook 5 minutes, until the walnuts are toasted and aromatic. Season with a pinch of salt (~⅛ tsp.), and transfer mixture to a bowl.
- Place pan back on the burner and increase heat to medium-high. Add olive oil, along with mushrooms and onion. Cook for 8 minutes, or until soft.
- Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns brick red and begins sticking to the pan. Gradually add spinach, stirring continuously until greens wilt down. Stir in oregano, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 2 tsp. fresh sage.
- Add vegetable broth, stirring to release any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in pumpkin puree, Parmesan (or Pecorino), and ½ cup fontina cheese; continue stirring until the fontina melts and the sauce is smooth. Add pasta and stir until all noodles are well-coated in sauce.
- Transfer mixture to a 13x9-inch greased baking dish. Sprinkle remaining fontina cheese overtop, along with buttery walnut-sage mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 7 to 10 more minutes, until cheese is completely melted and golden. Garnish with additional Parmesan (or Pecorino), if desired, before serving.