Vegetable Pasta Bake With Pumpkin Tomato Sauce
This Creamy vegetable pasta bake with pumpkin tomato sauce is so great for fall. It’s always comforting to tuck into a delicious warm cheesy pasta bake. This one is not only creamy and cheesy but it’s also full of veggies and fall flavours. When you think of tomato sauce with pumpkin, a little skepticism or confusion might first comes to mind but I think you will be pleasantly surprised. The pumpkin adds a touch of sweetness to this savoury sauce and nicely seasoned and spiced with sage and Italian seasoning and just a pinch of nutmeg for some warmth. There is sautéed mushroom and baby kale in this pasta dish - because upping your veggie and greens intake is always a good thing right?! There are also two cheeses in this one - some parmesan in the sauce and some Gruyère in between layers and over top. The garlic sage pumpkin seed topping is optional but it adds some delicious crunch and flavour that I strongly recommend.
I partnered up with Metro Ontario to share a tasty fall pasta recipe in celebration of world pasta day. Fun fact about pasta - (besides the fact that I could eat it everyday) is that there is at least 33 different types of pasta out there categorized into 5 groups. That is a whole lot of past to discover and enjoy. I chose to do a vegetable based pasta bake using local veggies. This recipe calls for pumpkin purée and fall is the best season to make your own - I have a simple recipe included in recipe notes for a homemade pumpkin purée that works well In this pasta bake but canned pumpkin purée works well too. This pumpkin pasta bake sneaks veggies into every bite and will definitely be a fall favourite.
Creamy Vegetable Pasta Bake with Pumpkin Tomato sauce Key Ingredients:
- Pasta - I love using rigatoni for pasta bakes. It’s a great shape for getting sauce inside of it and it is short enough that you can easily spoon it out of the pan to serve. You could use any pasta you like though. Feel free to use a gluten-free pasta if you wish as well
- Tomato Paste - this pumpkin pasta sauce is made with tomato paste along with the broth which keeps the overall sauce rich and great for seasoning it the way you like. You can also use your favourite marinara sauce - approx ½-1 cup of it and just reduce the amount of stock by a ½ cup.
- Vegetable stock or broth - this with the tomato paste and the pumpkin purée creates the bulk of the sauce. This keeps the pasta sauce on the lighter side of things. For a richer creamier sauce you can replace ½ - 3/4 cup of the broth with heavy cream.
- Vegetables - I chose to use mushrooms because I love them and I used baby kale because I always have it’s stocked. Feel free to use baby spinach instead though. You can also use other veggies you love in this pasta bake. I like to also add sun-dried tomatoes sometimes and bell peppers too. (For meat options check recipe notes below)
- Pumpkin purée -either homemade or canned works in this recipe. A quick recipe for homemade purée is included in the recipe notes below. Make sure if you are using canned that it’s pure pumpkin purée and not pumpkin pie filling.
- Spices - I love to do a blend of sage because I love pumpkin and sage together and Italian seasoning (which is a blend of dried basil oregano and thyme) and a pinch of nutmeg for warmth. Feel free to add more or less of the spices according to your taste and feel free to switch things up for a different flavor blend
- Cheese -this is where it gets fun and you can get creative or at least use the cheese that you love. I like the melt’ability and stretchabilitiy of mozzarella but you might find it too mild for this pasta bake - so I like to use Gruyere or cheddar or even fontina or Gouda for the pasta and Parmesan in the sauce. But you could even do a blend. This pasta bake would also be great with ricotta mixed into the sauce instead of Parmesan cheese or even dolloped between layers for a creamier spin on this pasta bake.
A Special Topping: This pasta bake recipe was inspired by a recipe from Jamie At Dishing Out The Health (such a fabulous recipe) - she does her topping with walnuts and butter but I decided to use pumpkin seeds since it’s a pumpkin pasta and I always have loads of pepitas on hand. It adds a delicious aromatic crunch and the garlic and sage infused oil that the seeds toast in adds so much flavour drizzled over the pasta bake. I could have eaten the topping on its own it’s so good but I’m glad I didn’t because it’s so good over the pasta bake.
How to make this Vegetable Pasta Bake with Pumpkin Tomato Sauce
The steps involved in this recipe are just as simple as the ingredients. You only need to:
- Cook pasta then drain it in a colander and set aside
- In a large skillet sauté shallots, mushrooms, garlic, spices, sage, with olive oil, until shallots and mushrooms are softened.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook a minute then deglaze pan with wine or broth. Stir in the greens and cook another couple of minutes until wilted.
- Then stir in the broth, pumpkin puree, and cheese and Cook stirring until heated through, combined and smooth.
- Add the pasta and mix until it’s well coated. Add saucy pasta to greased baking dish all at once then top with cheese or you can add half the pasta and do a layer of half the cheese repeated with the remaining pasta and cheese - your choice.
- Bake covered (make sure to grease your foil so the cheese doesn’t all stick to it) then uncover and bake a few more minutes until golden
- Make topping while it’s baking then after it’s out of the oven top pasta bake with it and serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese and chili flakes.
If you liked this pasta bake recipe you will love these:
For the sauce and pasta
- 1 lb. (16 ounces) dry short pasta of choice (I used rigatoni)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (or 1 yellow onion)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup white or red wine (optional - substitute with broth if desired)
- 1 ½ cups packed fresh baby kale or spinach spinach
- 2-2½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin purée (approx 1½ cups - homemade or storebought)*
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1 ½ cups shredded Gruyère or aged cheddar for a stronger flavour (for a milder cheese you can use mozzarella)
For the garlic sage pumpkin seed topping
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
- ½ cup finely chopped pumpkin seeds/pepitas
- 1 Tablespoon fresh sage finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
- Cook pasta to Al dente, drain and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large size skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, sage, nutmeg, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 -8 minutes, or until soft.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook stirring 1 min. Add white wine to deglaze the pan and simmer until reduced another 1-2 minutes. Stir the greens in and cook stirring until wilted, another couple of minutes
- Add 2 cups of broth, pumpkin puree, and Parmesan cheese and cook and stir until sauce is smooth. Add a little more broth if needed up to ½ cup more if sauce is too thick. Add pasta and stir until all noodles are well-coated in sauce.
- Empty half the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ the gruyere cheese. Then add the rest of the pasta topped with the remaining cheese. Cover with greased foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden. (Bake on a baking sheet or baking tray to avoid any messes)
- While it’s baking make topping: Heat butter or olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the sunflower seeds, garlic and sage; cook 3-5 minutes, until toasted. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle or drizzle over past bake once it’s out of the oven.
- Can I make this with homemade pumpkin purée? You absolutely can - you will need approx 1½-1¾ cups of pumpkin purée. You will need a 3 lb pie pumpkin or any pumpkin - peeled, seeds removed and chopped into cubes. Grease sheet pan and roast at 200°C for 25-30 min until tender. Allow to cool then use a masher, blender or food processor to blend until smooth.
- Can I make this last bake creamier/richer? If you would like this pasta bake richer and creamier feel free to substitute some of the broth for heavy cream. You could also dollop some creamy ricotta in between layers.
- Can I add meat to this pasta bake? If you would like to add some meat to this pasta bake I strongly recommend Italian sausage: 1-1½ lb approx casings removed and browned in a bit of olive oil before adding the shallots and the rest or you could also use ground turkey or ground beef too.
- Make sure to season the sauce really well because that is what will flavour the whole dish - so make sure to taste test along the way adding more or less spices according to taste.
- To Store. Store cooked leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Freeze. Place cooled pasta in an airtight freezer-safe container (or ziptop storage bag) in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To Reheat. If reheating from frozen, let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat single servings in the microwave with a splash of broth to keep it from drying out. Alternatively, you can reheat the pasta right in the casserole dish in a 350ºF oven until warm throughout.