This 20-minute Pumpkin Pasta with Toasted Walnuts & Spinach is perfect for fall! This creamy pumpkin pasta with toasted walnuts and spinach dish is as flavorful as it is nutritious. Serve it for a fall dinner party or quick weeknight meal.
I shared this creamy pumpkin pasta with a room full of people at my “all about pumpkin demo” a couple of weeks ago. Though they loved the smell of it, there were more than a few side-eyes in the room. No one had used pumpkin in pasta before and let’s just say they were skeptical but curious. Well. It was a hit!
Most people said they couldn’t taste the pumpkin. And that’s not surprising. Pumpkin doesn’t have a strong flavor. The flavors we associate with pumpkin usually come from the spices paired with it. There is one major exception. Fresh pumpkin can be incredible when it’s roasted until it’s caramelized and sweet.This 20-minute Pumpkin Pasta with Toasted Walnuts & Spinach is perfect for fall!
That’s not what I’m using today. Maybe later. Today, I used leftover canned pumpkin to make a luscious, silky smooth pumpkin pasta sauce that’s full of nutrition. It’s got vitamin C, beta-carotene, and fiber which can help keep the immune system and your skin glowing as the weather starts to cool down.
You can use any pasta you’d like. For more protein and fiber but without changing the flavor of the dish too much, I suggest using chickpea pasta. I prefer it to whole wheat or some of the other “healthy” pasta options.
If you’re living on the edge, boil some water and cook some old school, regular white pasta! I’m just being sarcastic. Use the pasta that works for you and your family. Just don’t overcook it.
Can you make a dairy-free pumpkin sauce?
Yes. I used a little half and half in this recipe because it adds a lovely texture and richness to the sauce. If you are avoiding dairy, try adding a bit more olive oil and broth instead of milk or cream. This substitution will also make the recipe more of a pantry meal.
The parmesan is, of course, a nice savory, salty addition. You can leave it out for a vegan recipe. If you find that the recipe needs a little something else, add a little nutritional yeast to the sauce and blend until smooth.
How to make pumpkin pasta sauce
For the sauce: sauté fresh garlic in olive oil just until fragrant. Add the other ingredients and let it simmer. I found that this sauce tastes better the longer it simmers. It tastes even better the next day, so it’s the perfect pumpkin pasta sauce for meal prep! I stored it in a mason jar and used it throughout the week. It also freezes well on its own.
Once the pumpkin sauce is ready, add a couple of large handfuls of baby spinach. Add in the pasta and heat the dish just until all are heated through and the spinach wilts.
Dish it up and top with roasted walnuts and grated Parmesan to make it pretty and to add extra flavor and texture. This pumpkin pasta dish would be an impressive vegetarian dish to serve at fall dinner parties but it’s also quick and easy enough for a fast weeknight meal.
Kids and adults will both love it. It’s also a tasty way to use up any extra canned pumpkin you might have leftover. This recipe will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.
Ways to use up leftover canned pumpkin
If you open up a new can of pumpkin for this recipe and need to use up the rest, here are a few tips for using up leftover pumpkin:
- Double this pumpkin pasta sauce recipe. I’m a huge fan of cooking (and cleaning) once and eating twice! You won’t regret having an extra batch of this sauce ready to go in a month.
- Make my easy homemade pumpkin spice granola!
- Stir extra pumpkin into oats or Greek yogurt.
- Feed the extra plain pumpkin to your dog. She will love it as is or mixed in with her regular food. My Biscuit loves it as a treat and it’s good for her digestion.
Pumpkin Pasta with Toasted Walnuts and Spinach
- 8 ounces shells or bowtie pasta
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree (I used canned)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp half and half (Swap in coconut milk for a vegan sauce.)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- pinch ground nutmeg
- Cracked black pepper and salt to taste
- 2 cups baby spinach, heaping
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- Parmesan cheese (Optional; Use crushed walnuts for a vegan recipe.)
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside but keep it warm.
- While the pasta cooks, bring a large skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil and minced garlic. Cook just until fragrant. Whisk in the tomato paste, pumpkin, half and half until smooth. Add the vegetable broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Let cook on low about 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach. Cook until it lightly wilts.
- Stir in pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts and Parmesan, if desired and serve.
- Adjust the salt based on the broth you use. For example, if you are using a lower sodium broth, add salt to suit your taste!
- Store the pasta sauce in a mason jar for a few days. It tastes better the day after you make it!
- Reheat the pumpkin sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Add warm broth to help thin it out if needed.