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An overhead shot of an off-white stoneware bowl of pumpkin pasta alla vodka topped with sage leaves and parmesan atop a woven cream placemat. A second bowl of pasta and a dish of parmesan sit beside it.

25-Minute Creamy Pumpkin Pasta alla Vodka

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American, Italian-Inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

While everyone obsesses over pumpkin desserts and lattes this time of year, I love using pumpkin to add a little autumnal flare to savory dishes. This creamy Pumpkin alla Vodka Pasta completely fits the bill!

There are 2 main elements to this recipe, both of which come together in 25 minutes or less (with minimal prep!) to create the best cozy fall dinner:

  1. Creamy pumpkin vodka sauce. We use all the elements of a classic Italian-American vodka sauce, but add seasonal ingredients like pumpkin purée, fresh sage, and nutmeg to create a slightly more festive dish for fall. The pumpkin vodka sauce has the depth of flavor and creamy texture you crave in a vodka sauce, but it also showcases seasonal pumpkin beautifully – with no pumpkin spice involved! 
  2. Pasta. Remember, you always want to choose a pasta shape that complements the sauce. Here I like using spirally fusilli since its ridges capture the creamy sauce to make every bite even more flavorful. Penne and rigatoni also work well!

Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty more details about the hows & whys of preparing vodka sauce, as well some really yummy serving suggestions & pairing ideas. ♡ Happy cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces fusilli or short pasta of choice (see Recipe Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot (or ½ small yellow onion), finely diced
  • 1012 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • optional: up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (see Recipe Notes)
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Add the fusilli (or pasta of choice) & cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, to al dente. (Al dente cooking time is typically noted on package directions.) Once the pasta reaches al dente, carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of starchy pasta water, & set aside. Drain the pasta – but do not rinse – & set aside. (Learn more! How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)An overhead shot of cooked fusilli noodles in a colander over a cocotte atop an off-white surface.
  2. Soften & bloom the aromatics: Meanwhile, as the water comes to a boil, begin building the pumpkin vodka sauce. Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, stir in the shallot. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened & fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the sage, garlic, & crushed red pepper flakes (if using) & cook 1-2 minutes longer, until fragrant.An overhead shot of sage and garlic being sauteed in a black cast-iron skillet atop an off-white surface.
  3. Prepare the pumpkin vodka sauce: Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Add the tomato paste & pumpkin purée to the skillet, stirring to coat the softened aromatics. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture darkens a little & begins to coat the bottom of the skillet. Deglaze the skillet by slowly pouring in the vodka while constantly stirring & scraping up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the skillet. Once the vodka is almost completely cooked off, stir in the heavy cream, grated parmesan, & nutmeg. Taste & adjust seasonings as needed. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.An overhead shot of cream being poured over sauce base in a black cast-iron skillet atop an off-white surface.
  4. Finish the pumpkin pasta alla vodka: Add the cooked pasta to the pumpkin vodka sauce. Toss to combine well – the sauce should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if it needs to tighten up more. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, allowing the pasta to meld together with the pumpkin vodka sauce. Remove from the heat.An overhead shot of pumpkin pasta alla vodka with a wooden spoon in a black cast-iron skillet atop an off-white surface.
  5. Serve: Portion the pumpkin pasta alla vodka into individual bowls, topping with grated additional grated parmesan or crispy fried sage leaves as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!An overhead shot of an off-white stoneware bowl of pumpkin pasta alla vodka topped with sage leaves and parmesan atop a woven cream placemat. A second bowl of pasta and a dish of parmesan sit beside it.

Notes

  • Jess’ Tips & Tricks:
    • Pasta: While pasta alla vodka is traditionally prepared with a short, tubular noodle such as penne or rigatoni, I’m particularly fond of the way the creamy sauce gets trapped in the twirly spirals of fusilli – it makes every bite a little more creamy, flavorful, & crave-worthy.
    • Pumpkin purée: For convenience, I always opt for canned pumpkin purée – just be sure to buy pumpkin purée, not pie filling! The pumpkin vodka sauce will use about ½ of a 15-ounce can, so you can freeze the rest for later or put it to use in another recipe. (I always use the rest to make Pumpkin Creamer for my morning coffee!)
    • Recipe variations: This pumpkin alla vodka recipe is naturally meatless. To ensure it’s vegetarian, be sure to use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan + dairy-free, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan & swap heavy cream with your favorite vegan alternative – full-fat coconut milk is delicious in this particular dish! 
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover pumpkin pasta alla vodka will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the pumpkin vodka sauce as needed, until warmed through.