Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta with golden mushrooms and ribbons of kale tossed in vegan vodka sauce. This healthy pumpkin pasta recipe is perfect for easy fall dinners, and sure to become a family favorite.
Why You'll Love this Pumpkin Pasta:
This luscious vodka sauce is miles ahead of anything you may find jarred in the pasta aisle. Pumpkin puree and coconut milk lend luxurious creaminess while keeping it completely plant-based. A dash of nutmeg adds sweet spice to the amplify the fall flavor and bring out the essence of pumpkin.
You could choose to keep the sauce unembellished, however I love adding veggies for extra oomph. For this recipe, golden mushrooms and ribbons of kale are hearty, earthy compliments to the brightly acidic sauce. Alternatively, you could add sautéed spinach, chard, or arugula to power up the nutrient ante.
How to Make Vegan Vodka Sauce:
Classic vodka sauce calls for heavy cream and Parmesan, however this version uses canned coconut milk to achieve rich creaminess. Coconut milk is very mild in flavor, so you don't have to worry about tasting any actual coconut in the sauce.
In order to keep the classic umami-laden flavor, this pumpkin pasta also calls for tomato paste. Not only does tomato paste add color, body, and bright acidity, but it also ups the savoriness and complexity factor. The trick, however, is to cook the paste until it turns brick red in color. Allowing it to caramelize takes away the raw tomato flavor, therefore unlocking its full flavor potential.
What sets this vodka sauce apart is the addition of pumpkin puree. While canned pumpkin tends to be associated with sweeter dishes, this sauce will turn you into a savory pumpkin convert. Since canned pumpkin is unsweetened, it's simply adding bright vegetal flavor, body, and a slew of nutrients, including fiber and beta-carotene.
The addition of nutmeg is what adds flavor that is decidedly fall and perfect for seasonal entertaining.
Does Vodka Sauce have Alcohol in it?
In short, yes--classic vodka sauce calls for vodka because the alcohol creates a brighter, creamier, more cohesive sauce. The trick is to make sure to cook the vodka for a full minute to evaporite the harsh booziness. Once those flavors dissipate, the vodka creates a nicely balanced sauce that packs a bit more heat and bright aroma.
However, if you prefer a nonalcoholic version, you can replace the vodka with chicken, beef, or vegetable broth. The flavor won't quite be the same (and it won't technically be a vodka sauce at that point), but do what works for you!
What Kind of Pasta Goes with Vodka Sauce?
In short, any pasta you like or have on hand! The classic pasta shapes for vodka sauce are penne and rigatoni, however I also love it with bucatini and linguine. It's also fun to use a spiral shape like cavatappi or fusilli so the sauce can fill every nook and cranny of the noodle.
If you're looking for a more nutrient-dense alternative to durum wheat pasta, I recommend either chickpea pasta (I love Banza brand!), or strands of spaghetti squash.This recipe is a quick, filling one-dish entree loaded with fiber and essential nutrients. Give it a try this week and be sure to tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful pumpkin pasta dishes!
Other Easy Pasta Dinner Recipes:
30 Minute Goat Cheese Pasta with Brussels
5 Ingredient Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
20 Minute Parslied Pea Pesto Pasta
Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms sliced
- 1 yellow onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½-3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp. freshy grated nutmeg
- 4 oz. tomato paste
- ½ cup vodka
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- ¾ cup canned full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream
- 1 lb. dry rigatoni pasta
- 1 bunch lacinato kale (stemmed and roughly chopped) (sub 4 cups fresh baby spinach)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish omit if making plant-based, or use nutritional yeast
- Fill a large pot with water and heat over high. Season liberally with salt and bring to a boil while you prep other ingredients.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and stir to coat veggies. Continue to cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown on the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add vodka to deglaze pan, stirring to scrape up browned bits of tomato paste. Cook 1 to 2 minutes to allow some of the alcohol to cook off.
- Stir in pumpkin puree and coconut milk (or heavy cream); reduce heat to low.
- Once pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook until almost al dente. Add kale during final minute of cooking.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked pasta and kale to pan with vodka sauce. (Or, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, and drain pasta and kale.)Stir in pasta cooking water in ½ cup increments until sauce turns smooth and glossy and coats pasta (I use 1 cup total). Stir in fresh thyme leaves and garnish with Parmesan, if desired. Season with additional salt, if needed.
Hey! What is the equivalent of dry nutmeg vs fresh? As I can’t find fresh anywhere!
This recipe is my go to for when I'm hosting and want to look fancy. It's so simple, and tastes so good.
It's good even without the mushrooms, but I think they give more substance. And if you like more heat, add more pepper. Perfect for autumn, honestly.
I'm so glad the recipe is a hit, Marinna! Thank you for taking the time to leave a review!
This sounds amazing and I can't wait to try it! One question - is it ok to leave out the mushrooms? I'm allergic and hope it won't change the overall dish too much if I leave them out.
Hi Lori, you can absolutely leave them out! Or swap for another veggie like sautéed eggplant, fennel, or zucchini. Enjoy!
This is AWESOME. Made it for my boyfriend tonight after a cold fall night and we both loved it. Added a little more pepper flake. Mixed with the pumpkin purée and nutmeg makes for a PERFECT fall dish. Also, did spicy Italian sausage instead of mushrooms and heavy whipping cream instead of coconut milk (not gluten friendly), but turned out delicious! Thank you so much for a great fall recipe.
Can you make the sauce ahead of time ?
Hi Carina, the sauce is best made fresh since you need to add some pasta cooking water to it.
What would you recommend as a substitute for the coconut milk? Would some regular skim milk work or do I need something with a little more fat?
Hi Janna, you’ll need more fat than in skim milk. I would use heavy cream or half and half.
I know I'm 2 years late, but cashew cream is also a good substitute for coconut milk! I haven't used it in this sauce, because I haven't made it yet, but I've used it in another (tomato-based) vodka sauce and it worked perfectly. You boil raw, unsalted cashews for 10 minutes to soften them, then drain them, and then add to a blender with an equal amount of water (I do 1/2 cup cashews and 1/2 cup water) and blend on high speed for 2 minutes until it becomes smooth and creamy.
This is absolutely gorgeous! I need to go buy a bigger pan for these dishes, I don't know if it's an Australian measurement difference but there's definitely more than 6 serves!
Also, I used chickpea pasta instead and it just adds a beautiful nutty extra!
I may have accidentally used double garlic and nutmeg and I regret nothing 🙂 I'll be doing a post on instagram soon!
Also... for anyone not in the USA.. I could not get tinned pumpkin anywhere, so roasted a butternut pumpkin so it's caramelised and put in a food processor. I don't know if it's the same exactly but it's still delicious and perfect texture!
Thank you so much, Eliza! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a review!
I have not tried this recipe yet, but butternut squash is actually more flavorful than pumpkin and I was automatically tempted to to this route. Thanks for the suggestion! It's good to know this worked well for someone.
OBSESSED with this pasta!! My husband and son (both picky eaters) loved it, too! Thanks!
Yay!! Love hearing that! Cheers
This is the most unusual recipe of pasta I've ever seen. I have friend in Russia, she came to America twice and got me vodka as a present. I never thought I could use it this way))) Sounds and looks really nice, I guess, I'll go to a Russian shop in my district and by a small bottle to cook this chef-d'oeuvre.
I hope you give it a try and enjoy it, my friend!! Promise it's a good one.
I LOVE THIS PASTA!! I never used canned pumpkin in pasta but will be making again!