I feel like I’ve sold part of my soul. Okay, that’s a little aggressive. I never thought I would make this dish. It’s just pumpkin seems so cliché now and I’m just jumping on the bandwagon. I know fall is all about pumpkins…pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin dip inside a pumpkin, pumpkin carving, pumpkin seeds. And yeah I like pumpkins (notice my Roasted Pumpkin Soup) but pumpkin pasta? What’s next Pumpkin Pie smoothies? Where does it end? (Okay, enough with the dramatics). In my mind, I thought this would be yummy. I may have pinned a few other recipes featuring pumpkin (on my hidden Pumpkin Board). So I decided yes, I am making Whole Wheat Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce. And I don’t care if I’m following the crowd because once I took a bite of the creamy, rich, pumpkin-y pasta I understand what it’s all about.
Hi, my name is Morgan and I like cooking with pumpkin.
After I made this dish I realized there are many great things about whole-wheat penne with creamy pumpkin. It’s a very simple dish (I think I say that about all my food) and only has 9 ingredients. For me that’s not a lot. It includes whole-wheat penne, which is high in fiber and protein and will keep you full all day. There’s Parmigiano Reggiano the king of cheese in Italy but most important is the pumpkin.
Pumpkin is actually a really healthy vegetable. It’s low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin E. More reason to love this dish. Delicious and healthy? Yeah it’s possible! It’s even healthier when you pick up organic pumpkin purée (thanks Trader Joe’s)!
What makes this sauce creamy is the organic pumpkin purée, a little half-and-half and Parmigiano Reggiano. Of course you could add heavy cream, extra cheese and butter but then it’s like, what’s the point? Can you even taste the pumpkin anymore? This dish is a great example of making healthy food taste rich so you’re not sacrificing any flavor. It’s also great for “tricking” those little kiddos so they think they’re eating mac ‘n’ cheese when it’s really pumpkin. To be honest though, my parents never really had to trick us into eating anything. And no, I don’t have any children but my thought is if you make food seem like it’s not be a big deal then it won’t be. Of course children will have preferences but you don’t have to freak out because they like broccoli. Broccoli is delicious…they should like it. Okay, enough with the soapbox rant on feeding children.
Although, sometimes we have to “trick” adults too. For instance, if I cover whole-wheat penne with creamy pumpkin sauce then more people will eat it and not even think if the pasta is whole wheat. Maybe they will know that it’s whole-wheat but they won’t care because it’s covered in creamy pumpkin sauce. Either way, it’s a win-win for everyone.
So besides the pasta and pumpkin, the dish also includes onions, sage, chicken broth, half-and-half, chives, breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano. For my vegetarian friends feel free to substitute with vegetable broth or water. If you’re a vegan…um…well…(cricket, cricket). This is a great Meatless Monday meal or a lovely side dish for Sunday night dinner.
It has great health benefits for you and your family, it’s economical and tasty. And it has PUMPKIN! You also get to bake the pasta in cute little gratin dishes. I mean who doesn’t love gratin dishes? I literally will create recipes just to use these dishes. To take it to the next level I finish the whole wheat penne with creamy pumpkin sauce with panko breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano. So on top of the creamy delicious sauce you have a crispy and crunchy top. So while you’re home this weekend sipping on your pumpkin spice latte, while carving pumpkins and burning a pumpkin scented candle make Whole Wheat Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce.
- 3 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1 pound whole wheat penne, or any short pasta of your choosing (can be substituted with gluten-free pasta)
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp chopped sage
- 1- 15 oz can organic pumpkin puree
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ¼ cup half-and-half
- 2 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, divided
- 2 tbsp chopped chives
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- non-stick cooking
- Bring a large pot up to a boil. Season aggressively with salt once the water has come up to a boil. It should taste like ocean water.
- Next, heat a large sauté pan oven medium heat, add 1 tsp of olive oil.
- Add the onions and sauté until softened about 10-12 minutes. Add the sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the pumpkin puree and cook for 3-4 minutes until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Drop your whole wheat penne into the boiling water and cook until al dente, around 7-8 minutes (you should check the package directions as well). It should be 1-2 minutes shy of al dente because it will bake again in the oven.
- Next add chicken stock and half-and-half to the pumpkin puree.
- Let it simmer for 3-4 minutes. Check the seasoning again.
- Add 1.5oz of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the pumpkin sauce.
- Once the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Add the whole wheat penne to the pumpkin sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick add the pasta cooking water, ¼ cup at a time until the right consistency is achieved. It should seem very saucy because the pasta will be baked and will continue to absorb the sauce.
- Sprinkle the pasta with chives and stir once more.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp olive oil, panko breadcrumbs and remaining Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Spray each of your gratin dishes with non-stick cooking spray.
- Spoon in about 1 ½ cups of pasta into each gratin dish.
- Top with 2 tbsp of breadcrumb mixture for each gratin dish. Spray the top of each gratin dish with non-stock cooking spray.
- Place gratin dishes on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is nice and crunchy.
- *If you don't have any gratin dishes this can be baked in a lasagna pan.
- **If you are gluten free, substitute penne for gluten free pasta and skip the breadcrumbs or substitute with gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- ***If you are vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock.