This pumpkin sauce for pasta recipe with crispy fried sage is delightfully creamy, cozy, comforting and perfectly portioned for two. Scaled down in size but not in flavor, we will combine nutmeg, shallots and cream with canned pumpkin puree. Crispy fried sage leaves and toasted nuts make an easy-to-make, elegant garnish for a pasta dish ready in under 25 minutes!
What does pumpkin sauce for pasta taste like? I liken it to alfredo sauce. It’s rich and creamy with a tangy, salty taste from Parmesan cheese, but with pumpkin spice. It is savory and indulgent, pairing perfectly with pasta.
Now, imagine crispy fried sage leaves with an herbal, slightly nutty flavor and the earthiness of toasted walnuts or pecans sprinkled on top adding a another level of flavor to this pasta dish.
Finally, Let’s talk pasta! This pumpkin sauce recipe with fried sage and walnuts is so versatile it works well with all types of pastas – short, long and stuffed.
Without a doubt, my preference is cheese ravioli because the cheese filling between two layers of pasta is a perfect match for this rich and creamy pasta sauce.
Either way, you will have an elegant dinner for two on your table in less than 25 minutes.
What you'll need
This pumpkin sauce recipe for pasta makes two generous servings. We streamline preparation by using canned pumpkin puree. We will sauté shallots, add some nutmeg, cream and parmesan bringing flavor complexity that is as good as a top-rated Italian restaurant pasta sauce.
Here are the ingredients you will need:
- Walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts. Toasting nuts brings out their earthiness and minimizes any bitterness found in raw nuts. In just a few minutes, nuts will go from pale, somewhat waxy, and mild in flavor and smell, to golden brown, rich-tasting, adding an intensity and delicious aroma to the sauce.
- Fresh cheese ravioli. While cheese ravioli is my favorite type of pasta for this dish, the sauce is so versatile you can easily substitute a dried shape – long or short work perfectly. For the best flavor and texture, be sure to buy fresh ravioli sold in the refrigerator case at the supermarket.
- Unsalted butter. The butter we will use to crisp and brown the sage leaves and toast the nuts. Yum!
- Fresh sage leaves. Crispy fried sage leaves with an herbal, slightly nutty flavor are easy-to-make and are an elegant garnish.
- Shallots. Shallots bring an onion flavor with a hint of garlic on the finish – a perfect enhancement for this sauce.
- Nutmeg. This warm spice is slightly nutty, sweet, and woody. It’s quite aromatic so we will use only a pinch to bring flavor complexity to the canned pumpkin puree.
- Heavy cream. Heavy cream is the thickener for this sauce. If you decide to swap in milk, it won’t thicken in the same way as heavy cream.
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For maximum flavor use Freshly grated Parmesan versus using already grated cheese.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Pumpkin Sauce for Pasta
You’ve gathered your ingredients. Here’s how to make this pumpkin sauce recipe for pasta.
- Cook the pasta. Bring 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water. If you have a hard time remembering to reserve pasta water before draining the pasta, you can set a 2-cup glass measuring cup in the colander in the sink as a reminder to ladle out some of that pasta water and reserve before draining.
Crisp the sage leaves and toast the nuts. Melt, 2 tablespoons butter in a small non-stick skillet or 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add both the nuts and sage leaves. We will cook until the sage is crispy. Using tongs, transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate, but continue to toast the nuts in the butter. Keep your eye on the nuts because once they start to brown they go quickly. Transfer the nuts to the same plate as the sage.
Sauté the shallots. Melt butter in the now-empty skillet. Add shallot, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt, cooking until shallot is softened, stir occasionally to ensure it is coated and glistening in the butter.
Finish the sauce. Stir in the cream and pumpkin into the shallot mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened – this will happen quickly so keep an eye on the sauce.
Remove from heat, stir in parmesan.
Add the pasta and toss to combine. Adjust the sauce consistency with reserved cooking water as needed. Add only 1 tablespoon at a time. This is added to the sauce both to help it thin and to add additional flavor. The starch in the water also helps the sauce cling to the pasta. Top with crumbled sage leaves and nuts.
How to make crispy fried sage leaves
To make fried sage leaves, simply melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Add sage leaves in a single layer. Watch them closely as it only takes about 30 seconds or so for them to crisp up, then remove them with a slotted spoon.
Place on a paper towel-lined plate.
You can make the fried sage leaves several hours in advance. Store them at room temperature, uncovered.
Type of pasta to use with pumpkin sauce
Pumpkin sauce goes well with any type of pasta - short, long or filled. However, when paired with ravioli it’s elevated and competes with restaurant quality pasta dishes. My ultimate favorite is cheese ravioli – pumpkin, sage, pecans and cheese – makes this extraordinary.
If you opt for a short pasta, such as penne or orecchiette, the shape allows the pasta to cling to the grooves or indents in the pasta – perfect for scooping flavor into every bit.
Using leftover pumpkin puree
Are you cooking for two and have half a can or more of pumpkin puree left? Here are some delicious ways to use it up!
- Stir it into your favorite chili. One of the great things about chili is how versatile it is. You can add just about anything. Try adding one tablespoon or what’s left over to our turkey chili.
- Add it to your Smoothie along with some pumpkin spice.
- Use it up in a baking recipe. From cakes to muffins, cookies and bars, there’s no shortage of tasty fall desserts that use less than one cup of pumpkin puree. Here is a great pumpkin scone recipe from The Baker's Almanac that uses half a can of pumpkin puree.
- Single Serving Vegan Pumpkin Waffles from The solo spoon.
- Make your own pumpkin spice latte.
How to store and reheat
While this recipe makes 2 hearty servings, you may want to make enough to have some leftover for lunch the next day.
To Store: Place salad in an airtight container. It will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Store the crispy sage leaves and toasted nuts, separately in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
To reheat: It's always best to heat at 50% power in the microwave with a splash of milk to keep the pasta from drying out. Garnish with the sage and nuts after reheating to keep their crunch.
Top tips to make this recipe
Want to know the secret to making this pumpkin sauce recipe for pasta? Here are some of my best tips that I’ve learned making this recipe again and again.
- Cook the pasta in salted water. This helps add flavor to the dish right from the beginning. Make sure that there’s lots of water in the pot so that the pasta has room to move and cook evenly.
- Reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Adding it to the sauce helps thin it, and it also helps to add additional flavor. The starch in the water also helps the sauce cling to the pasta.
- Add crispy sage and nuts right before serving to maintain their crunch.
Common questions about this recipe
You've got questions... I've got answers! If you have a question about this recipe that isn't answered below, feel free to leave it in the comments, and I'll jump in there to help you out.
The starch in the water helps emulsify the sauce – which means it helps the sauce become silky, avoiding separation. It also thins the sauce and adds additional flavor.
If using 100% canned pumpkin puree, there is little difference other than you do not have to roast or make your puree. If you opt to use fresh, you will want to make sure it’s well drained or allow to cook longer to cook off excess liquid.
Adding aromatics such as nutmeg adds flavor complexity. It’s quite aromatic so we will use only a pinch to bring flavor to the canned pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin puree is good for up to a year in the freezer, though the texture and quality will be best if used within a few months. Use a freezer-safe container. According to the USDA website, opened puree lasts for four days in the fridge.
Use full-fat coconut milk instead of heavy cream and swap out butter for coconut oil to crisp the sage leaves and toast the nuts.
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Looking for other vegetarian recipes for two? Try these:
Wondering what to serve with pumpkin pasta sauce? While, this recipe makes 2 hearty dinner portions, it makes a fantastic “primo” course before the main event. Here are a couple of my favorite dishes to serve as the “secondi” or main dish, immediately following the pumpkin pasta.
If you choose to serve as the main event serve with a simple salad tossed with a lemon and olive oil dressing or our favorite shallot vinaigrette.
Pumpkin Sauce for Pasta
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- 8 ounces fresh cheese ravioli or dried pasta type. For the best flavor and texture, be sure to buy fresh ravioli sold in the refrigerator case at the supermarket.
- pinch of salt plus salt for cooking pasta
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter ,divided
- 2 Tablespoons walnuts ,pecans, or blanched hazelnuts
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons shallot ,finely chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated for maximum flavor
- Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring often, until al dente – firm to the bite. Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water.
- Meanwhile, Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small non-stick skillet or 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add both the nuts and sage leaves. Cook until the sage is crispy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate. Continue to toast the nuts in the butter. Keep your eyes on the nuts as once they start to brown they go quickly. Transfer the nuts to the same plate as the sage.
- In the now-empty skillet melt ½ tablespoon butter. Add shallot, nutmeg and ⅛ teaspoon salt, cooking until shallot is softened, stir occasionally to ensure it is glistening in butter.
- Stir in the cream and pumpkin into the shallot mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened – this will happen quickly so keep an eye on the sauce. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Adjust the sauce consistency with reserved cooking water as needed. Add only 1 Tablespoon at a time. Top with crumbled sage leaves and nuts and serve.
• To Store: Place salad in an airtight container. Store the crispy sage leaves and toasted nuts, separately in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.