Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Those final moments of the day—the ones just before we fall asleep, when our minds are most free to wander—have a strange, unique power to make even ridiculous thoughts seem utterly logical, if not staggeringly brilliant. Last night, my final thoughts were how best to describe this Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce (yes, I think about these things before bed), and I was struck with the epic revelation that this recipe is an ideal metaphor for growing up.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta. Comes together in MINUTES. Easy, healthy, and absolutely delicious! If you like fettuccini Alfredo, you will LOVE this pasta recipe. @wellplated

If you’ve ever fallen asleep crafting the perfect speech to finally give your boss a piece of your mind, only to wake up the next morning to realize that a) it wasn’t as clever as you thought, and b) it would likely get you fired anyway, you know the sensation. At 11:45 p.m., this easy pumpkin pasta sauce was the culinary representation of coming of age and finding one’s place in the world.

Fast forward 6.5 hours. It’s 6:15 a.m., and I’m on my back porch writing this post. Maybe I need another cup of coffee, but growing up still feels like an acceptable metaphor for pumpkin pasta sauce. Is it as staggeringly brilliant as it seemed to my half-asleep brain last night? No. Could it be a reasonably accurate way to explain to you why you should make this pumpkin pasta sauce recipe? Let’s find out.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce. If you like Alfredo, you will LOVE this recipe, and it’s so much better for you! Easy, healthy, and DELICIOUS. @wellplated

When I was younger, fettuccini Alfredo was my pasta dish of choice. Whether I ordered it from a menu or poured the Alfredo from a jar at home, I could not get enough of its richness, its carby noodle-ness, and its unapologetic levels of heavy cream, cheese, and butter.

Then, in college and shortly thereafter, Alfredo sauce lost its luster. I dabbled in marinara, learned to make fresh pesto, and by the time I’d swiped my fork through a big plate of penne a la vodka, there was no going back. My old pasta sauce standby seemed excessive and gloppy. It no longer stood up to the bolder flavors and more nuanced textures of its pasta cousins.

Then, a few weeks ago while flipping through an old cookbook, I stumbled across a recipe for fettuccini Alfredo. It filled me with the sort of nostalgia and appreciation that another (arguably more sane) individual might reserve for his childhood teddy bear. It was time for Alfredo to find its place on my plate again.

Fettuccini with Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce. Easy and DELICIOUS! Tastes just like Alfredo but is healthy and a great way to sneak in an extra serving of veggies. @wellplated

Pumpkin pasta sauce might seem like an odd interpretation of fettuccini Alfredo, but the two are more similar that you think. Like the Alfredo I once loved, pumpkin pasta sauce is delightfully creamy, comforting, and a joy to twirl around your fork.

Unlike fettuccini Alfredo, however, this healthy pumpkin pasta sauce is diet-friendly and won’t leave you in a complete stupor afterwards. It’s a quality that did not factor into my teenage dietary decision making (of which there was precious little), but as an adult who seeks a balance lifestyle, it’s one that I prize.

Pumpkin is the key ingredient that gives the pasta sauce Alfredo’s signature, rich texture without the excess calories, and it’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients too. The sauce’s pumpkin flavor is subtle, so if you have any picky eaters who are loathe to eat their vegetables, this healthy pumpkin pasta sauce is an excellent way to sneak an extra serving onto the plate.

If you desire a stronger “pumpkin” taste, feel free to up the spices, as they are what makes the pumpkin flavor in the sauce most pronounced.

If you like pumpkin you will LOVE this Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce. Tastes like Alfredo, but is healthy and easier to make!

I DO insist that you keep the fresh sage. Its savory, earthy flavor adds depth to the pumpkin pasta sauce and brings it to life. Think of the sage as the final somethin’ somethin’ that makes this pumpkin pasta sauce taste all grown up.

4.73 from 11 votes
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Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Yield: 2 to 3 servings (see notes)
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce. Made with pumpkin, cream cheese, and sage, this easy recipe tastes similar to Alfredo but is healthy and ready in 20 minutes!

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole wheat fettuccini — or any other long, thin noodle, such as linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic — minced
  • 2 cups nonfat milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree — not pumpkin pie filling
  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese — cut into chunks and at room temperature (do not use fat free)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves — divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese — for serving

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot and sizzling, add the flour, then whisk constantly until it turns a golden color and smells nutty. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk a few splashes at a time, whisking constantly to smooth any clumps. Increase the heat to medium high, then let cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the pumpkin, cream cheese, half of the chopped sage leaves, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne. Continue whisking until the cream cheese melts and you have a smooth, rich sauce. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and gently toss to combine. Thin the pasta with a bit of the reserved pasta water as needed if it seems too thick or sticky. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan and the remaining sage.

Recipe Notes

  • This recipes serves 2 generously or 3 with smaller portions. To make this a heartier dish (and extend the servings to 4), try adding sautéed greens such as spinach or kale, shredded or chopped cooked chicken, or sautéed chicken or turkey sausage.
  • I have not tried doubling the recipe but don't see why it wouldn't work—just make sure you use a large enough pan.
  • Reheat leftovers gently in the microwave with a splash of milk to keep them from drying out.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, Healthy Pasta Dinner Recipe

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1 (of 3)) — Calories: 483, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 38mg, Sodium: 583mg, Carbohydrates: 68g, Fiber: 11g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

If you like this Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, don’t miss these other healthy (but decadent-tasting!) pasta recipes:

Spinach artichoke dip meets mac and cheese in this decadent, suprisingly healthy recipe

Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese

Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta. Easy and SO GOOD. A romantic dinner recipe that's ready to go in 20 minutes!

Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan. A quick and healthy one-pan dinner!

Kale Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

52 comments

  1. This creamy pumpkin alfredo looks to die for! Love the spices and the lighter ingredients :)

  2. This looks and sounds phenomenal!

  3. Thanks Erin for your doable healthy recipes! Do you think almond milk would work here? Thanks again!

  4. I don’t know that I could get my husband to eat this, but to me it sounds delicious.  It’s amazing what a little cream cheese will do to add richness to a dish.  Definitely a better choice than Alfredo.  And I can tell that this sauce would not be the same without the sage.

  5. Interesting way of using pumpkin, that pasta looks absolutely stunning! (:

  6. We had this for dinner last weekend–SO GOOD! We had it with wheat noodles and roasted broccoli on the side. Fabulous recipe, as always Erin :)

  7. OMG I’m in love. I’ve used pumpkin in mac n’ cheese before, but I love the elegance this dish brings with the creamy sauce. I will definitely be giving this one a try, perhaps with some turkey bacon and sautéed spinach/mushrooms? Thanks for the recipe and inspiration!! :)

    – MAK

  8. This looks fantastic and I would love to make it as is, but need to adapt it to dairy free. I’m used to finding substitutes for butter and milk, but interested in your thoughts in substitutes for the cream cheese! That’s the one that still stumps me :) thanks!

    • Hi Erin! To be honest, I’ve never tried a non-dairy version of this recipe. I do know that non-dairy cream cheese substitutes are available (a Google search will suggest brands), but I’m not sure how well they’d melt into the sauce.  You could certainly experiment, but I’m afraid I can’t give you a concrete answer, since I haven’t tried the recipe this way. I wish I could!

  9. Hi Erin! I just subscribed to your blog a week or so ago, and it was because of this recipe. I made it last night for my meat and potatoes eating boyfriend, and we were both blown away! This stuff is sooooo good! I’m looking forward to making many more of your recipes in the future. :)

  10. I made this sauce with zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and it was amazing! Only change I made was to add about 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce in addition to being sprinkled on top. Delicious, tastes like fall. Thanks for the great recipe!

  11. I love the recipe, but when does one add the other half of the sage?? Thanks!

    • Hi Loren! The remaining sage gets sprinkled on top of the finished pasta in step 3. I’m so happy to hear you loved the recipe! Thanks for taking the time to leave this review!

  12. I made this after seeing a can of pumpkin purée in the pantry and thought pumpkin would be perfect in a creamy savory pasta. After finding this in a quick google search, I started cooking! I added ground turkey and some apple gouda chicken sausage and then added a nice sprinkle of dried cranberries on top! The cranberries where what really completed this dish, perfect balance of savory and sweet, a great dish for the fall (even though I made this in a Texas summer)

    • That sounds delicious, Conor! I’m glad you found this recipe! Thanks so much for giving it a try and sharing how it turned out.

  13. This pumpkin alfredo is amazing! It’s a mystery to me how, even warmed up the next day, can still have such a great smooth texture. Our family LOVES making this for dinner. It’s our favorite go-to! We throw Cajun chicken in it and call it dinner ??

    • Anna, I’m so glad to hear the recipe is a new family favorite! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this lovely review. :)

  14. So disappointing, absolutely has no taste whatsoever.  I appreciate lower fat options but not tasteless options.  Any suggestions on how to salvage it?  I hate to throw it away. 

    • Hi Michele, I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste. As you can see from the other reviews, many other readers have tried it and enjoyed it! I’d recommend bumping up the garlic, sage, and spices in the recipe and tasting as you add if you aren’t finding the flavor is strong enough.

  15. Another hit with my family!! Even my picky eater kids love your meals. Thank you!!

    • WOOHOO Kristi! I’m happy to hear this recipe was a winner with your family, and I appreciate your taking the time to report back!

  16. Hi Erin! I just tried this recipe and LOVED it! I was wondering about maybe adding maybe 1/2 cup of parmesean into the sauce to bump up the cheesy flavor a little bit. Do you think that would blend well with the other spices?

    • Holli, I am so happy you loved it! I think you can definitely add Parm. I’d suggest starting with 1/4 cup, and if you really love it, you can always add more to taste. Thanks for taking time to leave this lovely review!

  17. So good! The seasonings are well-balanced and enhance the pumpkin without overpowering the pasta. I used regular penne instead of whole wheat linguini, and Neufchâtel instead of regular cream cheese. Also cooked up some chicken in the pan before starting the sauce, to add in later. Thanks for another great recipe!

  18. Can the sauce be frozen for later use?

    • Mildred, I’ve never tried freezing this particular sauce so I can’t be 100% certain. I think that would be OK though! Freeze it in an airtight container, let it thaw in the fridge, and then reheat it very very gently. I hope you enjoy!

  19. I made this tonight to use up a little leftover pumpkin I had on hand. It was amazing!! I ate it with a side of roasted yellow squash with parmesan cheese. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hooray! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Emily. Thanks so much for taking the time to review the recipe too!

  20. I couldn’t find any pumpkin in Trader Joe’s or Sprout’s. Will sweet potato purée work?

    • Hi Alix, I haven’t tried it with sweet potato puree, so I can’t say for sure that would work, but if you do decide to experiment I’d love to hear how it goes.

  21. Would this work with light sour cream instead of cream cheese? Really trying to make it as healthy as I can here. Thanks.

    • Hi Marion, I haven’t tried it with light sour cream, but you can definitely experiment—the sauce probably won’t be as thick. If you give it a try, I’d love to know how it goes.

  22. Would whole milk work instead of fat free milk?

  23. This was great; albeit just a bit bland hence the 4-star review… but that may just be my palate. It was super fast and easy to make, which means I will likely be making it again, and my husband liked it, despite some skepticism about pumpkin in pasta sauce :-). We added roasted mushrooms, and I think it would also be really good with toasted walnuts or hazelnuts and/or chicken.

    • Molly, thanks so much for taking the time to try the recipe and leave this review! I think your additions and suggestions sound delicious too!

  24. I made this tonight using chickpea penne and it was delicious! I added a side of roasted brussels sprouts and it was the perfect fall meal! Thank you!

  25. I made this tonight with pumpkin-shell shaped pasta and it was amazing! I make pumpkin pasta inspired recipes every fall and my husband said this was the best one yet. I did omit the cinnamon, which I think helped keep the savory over sweet perception. I doubled the recipe and it came out great, thank you! 

  26. Delicious! My vegetarian daughter, who likes pretty much nothing, liked it too. I used full-fat cream cheese and milk and cut back the amounts. I added Italian seasoning, lots of pepper, and mixed some of the parm into the sauce. I have made similar recipes that were tasteless and I thought this one had a lot of flavor.

  27. This was a hit with my family! Thank you for this! I doubled and it worked out well. Also mixed in the parm, roasted mushrooms, and roasted shredded Brussels sprouts. I think a bit of pancetta would be great in this 

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