This simple Pumpkin Pasta pairs the baked ziti we all know and love with creamy pumpkin, sage, and sharp white cheddar cheese for an unbelievable Fall dinner!
Pumpkin is kind of like tofu in that it doesn't really taste like very much. It's mildly squashy (squashy is a word!), but it's really all about what you add to it.
The flavor and scent most people attribute to pumpkin is actually the spices commonly used with it - without those spices, pumpkin can be something completely different. It doesn't always need to be sweet!
In fact, pumpkin puree makes a great base for a pasta sauce - it's naturally creamy, so it gives you an alfredo-like texture without having to use heavy cream.
And so I decided to put a pumpkin-inspired twist on my popular Vegetable Baked Ziti recipe with this pumpkin baked ziti! I think it's the perfect pasta dish for Fall.
This pumpkin pasta is:
- Serious comfort food.
- Tossed in a deliciously creamy pumpkin sauce.
- Loaded with cheesy goodness.
- Baked to a golden perfection.
- An easy vegetarian dinner!
Tips, Tricks, & Variations
I tested this recipe with fontina as a topping at first, and it was also very tasty, but I liked it even better with a good sharp white cheddar. You can use whichever you prefer.
Feel free to add other fresh herbs of your choice. Sage is a classic fall flavor, but parsley and basil are also great matches for this dish.
Make sure you are using plain pumpkin puree and not the pre-sweetened pumpkin pie filling kind - check the label carefully. The only ingredient should be pumpkin!
And if you love this basked pumpkin pasta, be sure to check out these other delicious ideas:
- Tasty Vegetarian Pasta Recipes
- Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Pumpkin, Mushroom, and Spinach Tater Tot Casserole
- Easy Pumpkin Hummus
- 3 tablespoons olive oil + 2 teaspoons, divided
- 2 shallots large , peeled and diced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups milk 2% or whole milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated
- ½ cup sage leaves thinly sliced, divided
- pinch ground nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces whole wheat ziti pasta or penne or rigatoni, cooked al dente
- ¾ cup sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray a square 8" x 8" baking dish with an oil mister or cooking spray.
- Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, if not already done, and set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour into the skillet and give it a good stir. Cook, continuing to stir often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Grab a whisk and slowly pour the milk into the skillet, whisking it into the flour mixture. Once the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth, add the pumpkin to the skillet and whisk that in. Let the sauce cook on medium heat until it's thickened, about 7 minutes, continuing to whisk often.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, ¼ cup of the sage leaves and a pinch of nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then fold in the cooked penne. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the shredded cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes covered, then uncover and cook for 10 minutes more. If you want a browned top, broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
- While the casserole is baking, make the crispy sage topping. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining sage to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until crispy, about 3 minutes. Keep a close eye on the sage because it will go from crispy to burnt really quickly! When the sage is done, transfer it to a paper towel to soak up some of the excess oil. Sprinkle the crispy sage onto the baked ziti before serving.