This pumpkin pasta sauce recipe is creamy, savory, and easy to make. Featuring a handful of ingredients, it’s an upgraded version of traditional marinara sauce and is fitting for the fall season. Pair it with your favorite pasta noodles and a side of turkey meatballs for a nutritious comfort food dinner no one can resist!
I love fall and all the pumpkin recipes that come along with it! I mean, who can say no to treats like a single serve pumpkin spice cinnamon roll, pumpkin cheesecake bars, or pumpkin cheesecake brownies? Definitely not me!
However, while I do have a pretty big sweet tooth, I can’t live on treats all season long. So, I do my best to incorporate pumpkin into savory recipes, too, and this pumpkin sauce for pasta never disappoints!
It beats anything that's sold in a jar and comes together with simple ingredients in a matter of minutes. Toss it with your favorite pasta, add some protein, and dinner is served.
Why You’ll Love This Pumpkin Pasta Sauce Recipe
- Gluten and dairy free-friendly
- Full of nutrients
- Cooks in a single skillet
- Ready in less than 20 minutes
- Stores and reheats well
Pumpkin Pasta Sauce Ingredients & Notes
- Turkey meatballs - Technically optional, these are a great way to turn your pasta into a complete meal. Feel free to use any other protein source you like best.
- Olive oil - Used to sauté the ingredients. Feel free to use avocado oil instead.
- Aromatics - Onions and garlic are sautéed to create a sweet, savory base of flavor.
- Tomato paste - Tomato paste, not to be confused with tomato sauce, comes in a very small (6-ounce) can at the grocery store. It has a thick consistency as it’s made by cooking tomatoes for so long that the water cooks out, meaning it’s perfect to use as a concentrated base for pumpkin pasta sauce.
- Herbs and spices - Sage, thyme, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper add a savory, herbaceous flavor with just a touch of heat.
- Pumpkin puree - Use pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie spice which has added sugar and spices. The only ingredient should be pumpkin!
- Milk - Use regular cow’s milk or any non-dairy milk you have on hand.
- Vegetable broth - Use low-sodium, if you can, and feel free to swap it out with any other type of broth.
- Diced tomatoes - These add texture to the sauce.
- Pasta - Use any type of pasta in pumpkin sauce for a satisfying meal.
Is pumpkin puree the same as canned pumpkin?
Yes, while they may differ slightly in color, they are the same thing. The only ingredient in a can of pumpkin puree should be pumpkin.
Pumpkin Marinara Step-by-Step Instructions
This pumpkin pasta sauce comes together easily in just a single skillet. Prepare the turkey meatballs ahead of time, and cook the pasta while the sauce simmers, and you’ll have dinner on the table in no time!
Step 1: Prepare the meatballs. If desired, prepare the meatballs according to the recipe instructions.
Step 2: Sauté the aromatics. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and sauté until soft. Then, add the onion to the pan, and cook until both ingredients turn translucent.
Step 3: Add the seasonings. Spoon the tomato paste into the skillet along with the herbs and spices. Use a spatula to stir the ingredients until they are well combined and the mixture is a deep red brick color.
Step 4: Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients. Add the pumpkin to the skillet, and mix until it is well incorporated. Then, pour in the milk and vegetable broth, and gently mix to combine before adding the diced tomatoes as well.
Step 5: Simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken, stirring occasionally. Add a few small splashes of extra broth as needed to achieve your desired consistency.
Step 6: Prepare the pasta. While the sauce simmers, heat a pot of water, and cook your pasta according to the package instructions.
Step 7: Serve. Place the cooked meatballs in the sauce, and allow them to heat up. Then, divide the cooked pasta noodles into bowls, spoon the meatballs and pumpkin sauce on top, and enjoy warm!
Pumpkin in Pasta Sauce Variations
You can really switch up the spices in this pumpkin pasta recipe. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make it your own:
- Add red pepper flakes or more cayenne pepper for extra heat.
- Swap the cayenne pepper with paprika for a kid-friendly dish.
- Add some mushrooms when the onions are cooking for more veggies.
- Sprinkle in some cinnamon or pumpkin spice (about ½ tsp) for a hint of sweet flavor.
- Switch up the protein, and add chicken thighs or breast to the sauce.
- Make this dish vegan and stir in a can of drained chickpeas into the sauce and serve with rice or pasta.
- Make sure to use real pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. They are very different. The only ingredient in pumpkin puree should be pumpkin.
- Stir the garlic and onions continuously to prevent burning, and add a little more olive oil if needed.
- Keep the heat at medium-low. The sauce should simmer throughout the cooking process, not boil.
- Gently stir all the ingredients together to prevent making a mess. This sauce is a little thin at first and will thicken up as it cooks.
Can I Make Pumpkin Sauce Ahead of Time?
This sauce can be made ahead of time but is best enjoyed hot and fresh.
If you need to prepare it beforehand, simply follow the recipe as directed, and transfer the pumpkin sauce into an airtight container. Let the sauce cool before putting a lid on to prevent condensation.
When ready to enjoy, heat the sauce back up on the stove or in a smaller bowl in the microwave. Add a splash of water or broth to help loosen up the sauce.
How to Store Pumpkin Sauce for Pasta
Fridge - Store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. When ready to enjoy, heat it back up on the stove or in a small bowl in the microwave until warm.
Freeze - You can store the sauce in a freezer-friendly bag or container for later use, or you can pour it into freezer soup trays. It will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Let it thaw at room temperature or heat up the frozen cubes in a skillet over low heat until warm and enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use any noodles in this pumpkin pasta sauce.
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Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- 1 Large Skillet
- ½ batch Turkey Meatballs - optional
For the pasta
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- ½ cup white onion - diced
- 1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ⅔ cup milk of choice
- ½ cup vegetable broth - plus another ½ cup if needed, any broth will work
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 8 oz box pasta of choice
- If desired, prepare the meatballs first according to directions.½ batch Turkey Meatballs
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the garlic and saute until soft. Add the white onion to the pan and continue to cook until they turn translucent.2 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, ½ cup white onion
- Spoon the tomato paste into the skillet along with the sage, thyme, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper. Use a spatula to stir the tomato paste into the olive oil, onions, and spices and cook until it turns a deeper brick colored red (about 5 minutes). The tomato paste will be thick in consistency but should darken in color and begin to caramelize.1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon sage, 1 teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Add the pumpkin puree to the skillet and mix into the tomato paste mixture.1 cup pumpkin puree
- Pour the milk and vegetable broth into the skillet and gently mix to combine. Add the can of diced tomatoes and gently mix. The mixture will look thin but will thicken up as it cooks. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Add small splashes of extra vegetable broth if needed to achieve your desired consistency.⅔ cup milk of choice, ½ cup vegetable broth, 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- While the sauce is simmering, heat a pot of water for the pasta and cook as directed.8 oz box pasta of choice
- Place the cooked meatballs into the sauce and let them heat up for about 3 minutes.
- Serve the pasta noodles in a bowl with the sauce and meatballs on top and enjoy!