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This cheesy pumpkin pasta bake comes out of the oven bubbly and cheesy and is loaded with comforting fall flavors – hearty pasta, nutritious kale, and gooey cheese are smothered in an easy-to-make and healthy creamy pumpkin sauce and topped off with butter pecans and earthy sage. It's the perfect comfort food to add to your fall dinner rotation. Or make it for a standout Thanksgiving side!
Pumpkin and pasta belong together – this pumpkin mac and cheese should be next on your list!
Using pumpkin in pasta sauce is a win – it's satisfying AND nutritious! Pumpkin's natural richness steps in for heavy cream, reducing the fat content without compromising the velvety, luscious consistency. Pumpkin is full of Vitamins A, E, and C as well as a good source of iron and fiber. It's also super low on the calorie scale, so you get more flavor with fewer calories.
This pasta pumpkin bake calls for wholesome ingredients that come together to make a bubbly pan of delicious fall comfort – gather these items:
- Short pasta: Opt for a short pasta, like fusilli or penne. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce as desired.
- Salted butter: For toasting the pecans and crisping the sage leaves.
- Sage leaves: Add a fragrant and earthy herb that tastes like fall.
- Pecans: Coarsely chopped pecans bring a nutty crunch.
- Olive oil: For sautéing the veggies.
- Vegetables: Red onion and kale balance the dish.
- Garlic: For savory depth.
- Canned pumpkin: Luscious and velvety pumpkin adds a rich base to the sauce.
- Cheese: Cottage cheese adds a creamy tang, and mozzarella melts into a gooey golden topping.
- From the spice rack: Sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne enhance and balance all the other flavors.
How to make pasta pumpkin bake
There are a few little steps to getting the pumpkin pasta bake ready, but each step is super quick and easy – here are the instructions:
- Cook pasta: Boil in salted water and drain the pasta while the oven preheats. Remember to reserve some of the cooking water!
- Sage and pecans: Melt butter in a pan, first adding the sage leaves until crispy. Then swap them out for the pecans to let them toast.
- Sauté: Heat the olive oil and then cook the onions, garlic, and kale.
- Make pumpkin sauce: Mix the pumpkin, cottage cheese, sage, black pepper, cayenne, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
- Mix everything together: Pour the pumpkin pasta sauce over the pasta, adding the kale, half of the mozzarella, and just enough of the pasta cooking water so that it becomes wonderfully creamy. Transfer everything to a casserole dish and top with the rest of the mozzarella, crispy sage leaves, and buttered pecans. Bake until it's hot and bubbling – and enjoy!
What to serve with this pumpkin pasta bake
This baked pumpkin pasta dish is a cozy comfort food that can be enjoyed as a meal on its own or as a tasty side. This is the perfect side dish to for fall dinners and is a stand out side, potluck favorite, and great for Thanksgiving feasts.
Can I add any other ingredients?
Cheesy baked pumpkin pasta with kale, pumpkin, sage, and pecans is a well-balanced dish, but you can totally play with adding other flavors or ingredients. Our top picks would be a sprinkle of chili flakes or garlic powder, oregano, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, roasted cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, pine nuts, or roasted butternut squash. If you'd like to add protein, bite-sized cooked chicken pieces, Italian sausage, or ground turkey taste great.
Can I store leftovers?
Yes, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to three months.
Can I make this dairy-free or gluten-free?
To make this gluten-free, opt for gluten-free pasta.
To make this dairy-free, opt for your favorite vegan butter and cheese. The final result may vary slightly in consistency, but the flavors will taste great!
- 12 ounces short pasta
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 10 whole fresh sage leaves
- ½ cup pecans (coarsely chopped)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 14 ounce canned pumpkin
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon EACH: black pepper and cayenne
- 8 ounces mozzarella (grated)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and then return it to the pot.12 ounces short pasta
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe. Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the whole sage leaves and cook until they're crispy, about 1 minute. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.1 tablespoon salted butter, 10 whole fresh sage leaves
- In the same pan, add the pecans and let them toast until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes.½ cup pecans
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook till soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and kale and cook until the kale is wilted, about 2 minutes.1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 medium red onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 cups chopped kale
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the pumpkin, cottage cheese, sage, black pepper, cayenne, and salt.14 ounce canned pumpkin, 1 cup cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, ½ teaspoon EACH: black pepper and cayenne, 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Pour the pumpkin sauce over the cooked pasta, add the kale and half of the mozzarella cheese, and mix well. If the pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water until it is nice and creamy.8 ounces mozzarella
- Transfer the pasta to a 9×11-inch casserole dish and top with the remaining mozzarella, crispy sage leaves, and buttered pecans. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until the pasta is hot and bubbling.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.