This Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake is loaded with pumpkin puree, plant-based meat crumbles, and gooey melted mozzarella or sharp cheddar. The best comfort food to indulge in all Fall season long. It's a fast family-friendly pasta dinner for any weeknight. Gluten-Free option.
Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake-------I love pasta dishes, especially pasta bakes. Honestly, they are the perfect lazy meals for during week or on weekends.
This meatless pasta bake is truly something delicious. This vegetarian option pasta bake is truly amazing. Nothing short of flavor and it’s even perfect once reheated!
So, these quick, easy meals come in real handy, especially on those days, especially when it has pumpkin involved.
Of course, you can always search ‘weeknight meals‘ on our site for more deliciousness.
How to Make Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake
You can use store-bought canned pumpkin puree for this recipe if you're short on time, but I highly recommend whipping up a quick batch of your own pumpkin puree. You'll also mince your meatballs or buy a store-bought meat crumble.
To put everything together, you'll toss your cooked pasta with the 'meat' sauce, pumpkin mixture, and plenty of cheese in a baking dish, and bake until everything is gooey and warm, with a crisp crust on top.
Ingredients for Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Here's what you need to bring this creamy Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake to life for dinner tonight:
Rigatoni. You can substitute rigatoni with your favorite pasta shape. For a gluten-free version, simply use gluten-free pasta.
Pumpkin. I use 100% organic pumpkin puree in the can, NOT pie filling. There's a difference!
Garlic. This adds a delicious aromatic flavor to compliment the sweetness of your puree.
Meatballs or meat crumble. Whether using store-bought or homemade meatballs, feel free to add them to a food processor so that they become "small and crumb-like.
White wine. Opt for a dry white wine in this recipe.
Herbs + seasoning. You'll need oregano, basil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and wed pepper flakes.
Cheese. You'll need a few cups of shredded cheese like mozzarella, sharp cheddar, etc.
REASONS WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS PASTA!
It’s absolutely delicious----creamy + velvety!
Super easy to make and quick (plus, no crazy clean-up! Can we say–Everything in a skillet?)
Loaded with Cheesy flavors, velvety + spoonfuls of pumpkin puree.
Full of flavor + well seasoned! (The best reason!)
Perfect for any time of day—Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast (if that’s your thing), whatever!
Make-Ahead Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Cook your pasta and let it cool completely before storing in an air-tight refrigerator for 3-5 days. In a bowl, combine your pumpkin puree and cheese and place in an air tight container to refrigerate overnight as well.
Follow steps to cook the minced meatball/crumbles and pasta sauce and after STEP 4, remove sauce from heat, let cool and store in the fridge the day before. On the day of, remove everything to room temp., about 15-20 minutes and continue assembly STEPS.
The Best Meat Crumbles to Use for this Pumpkin Pasta Bake?
When it comes to this Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake, creating that 'meaty' feel without any actual meat is one of the important components. For this, I love to make my own meatballs from scratch---check out this Vegan Meatballs Sub recipe for awesome steps on how to make your own!
However, if you don't have the time to make your own or just don't want to----I always recommend using a great store-bought plant-based meatball from Gardein or Whole Foods 365 or using your favorite plant-based meat crumble to save you some time.
If starting off with vegan meatballs, simply place your cooked meatballs in a food processor and pulse until fully broken down into small-medium chunks. Wallah!
On the other hand, if you don't care about this recipe being vegetarian, then feel free to use actual meatballs or ground beef.
SERCRET TO A CREAMY FILLING?
The pumpkin-cheese mixture. Simple!
In order to ensure that your filling for the pasta bake is smooth and creamy, you must ensure that your pumpkin mixture is nice in velvety.
Since pumpkin puree usually comes out a bit thick, the trick to the ultimate creaminess is in mixing in a bit of the boiled pasta water. Yup. You’ve read right.
A few Tbsps of boiled pasta water loosens things up nicely and creates a nice smooth texture. So, once you fold in the shredded cheese, you’re good to go!
How To Make Your Sauce More Flavorful?
It’s all about the seasoning! Whether you choose to make your pasta sauce from scratch or use a store-bought version, adding seasoning to your sauce is KEY! Adding flavor to the base of your sauce with garlic and seasonings will add more depth to your pasta bake and allow everything else to marry together well.
Just let it all simmer together and slowly bubble as the seasonings infuse deeply.
Begin by cooking rigatoni pasta according to the directions of the packaging (about 8-10 minutes) and drain (leaving aside 2-3 Tbsps of pasta water for later).
What Are Delicious Foods to Pair This Pumpkin Pasta Bake With?
With most pasta dishes, I often enjoy them with a side of bread of some sort. Most times, I make my own homemade Garlic Bread, however, you can choose to spruce things up with many other options such as:
A delicious Salad
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
It must be noted that this recipe (and most sweet or savory pumpkin recipes) calls for 100% pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling! Pumpkin pie filling is quite literally the sweet pumpkin custard that you find in traditional pumpkin pie. It already contains sugar, cinnamon, clove, and other ingredients that make a pie filling.
Adding pumpkin pie filling to a dish that calls for 100% pumpkin puree will add an unwelcomed sweetness, essentially ruining the dish. Even if you are unsure of what type of pumpkin a recipe is calling for, go for the 100% pumpkin puree.
How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
If you're thinking about making your own pumpkin puree instead of using a store-bought canned version, then you'll be happy to know that it is rather simple:
Step 1: Cut your pumpkins in half and scoop out the seeds. Be sure to save the seeds for another time because you can definitely use those!
Step 2: Feel free to cube the pumpkins into medium-large chunks and then place them unto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. NOTE: ensure that the skin of pumpkin are peeled off at this point.
Step 3: Always season your pumpkin pieces (salt, black pepper, + smoked paprika) and lightly grease with olive oil until coated.
Step 4: Roast in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40-45 minutes or until the edges are golden and they become super tender once tested with a fork or knife.
Step 5: Using a food processor or blender, puree your pumpkin along with water or veggie stock, until smooth. You can either use this immediately in whatever pumpkin recipe you'd like, store it in the freezer for later use.
How to Store Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake
Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. To re-heat, simply heat in the oven for the best results or microwave for a minute or two until heated through.
Can I Make this Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake Gluten-Free?
Absolutely! To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free pasta and ensure that other ingredients are GF-friendly.
Other Pumpkin Recipes You'll Love
If you are in love with this Spicy Pumpkin Pasta Bake as much as I am, check these recipes out!
To begin, cook pasta according to packaging. NOTE: rigatoni pasta doesn’t take a long time to cook, usually 8-10 minutes (however, you should cook at 6-8 minutes or so—‘al dente’). ***Save a bit of the pasta water for later for the filling if needed.***
TO MAKE THE 'MEAT' SAUCE:
In a large 12-inch skillet, add the olive oil and add minced garlic, sauté frequently about 1-2 minutes until translucent and fragrant.
Add in the chopped peppers followed by the seasonings: oregano, basil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes, stirring until combined and veggies are coated.
Add the pasta sauce, cooking wine, and the minced meat, stirring everything together until combined. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, allowing it to simmer in the sauce for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add drained cooked pasta and gently stir until everything is combined and pasta is covered with sauce.
TO MAKE THE FILLING:
In a bowl, add the pumpkin puree and cheese, followed by the salt, black pepper, parsley, cinnamon, and nutmeg----stirring until combined, smooth, and paste-like. NOTE: If you want it to be smoother, add 2-3 Tbsps of boiled pasta water to make the filling thinner.
In the baking dish, add in the pasta (covered in the 'meat' sauce), spreading it out evenly. Spoon on the pumpkin cheese mixture and stir slightly until tucked in between a bit of the pasta. Sprinkle a nice layer of cheese atop pasta until the entire pasta is covered.
Loosely cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil paper and bake for another 10-15 minutes or so, until cheese has fully melted and the top is browned slightly.
Remove from oven and serve with your favorite salad or bread.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. To re-heat, simply heat in the oven for the best results or microwave for a minute or two until heated through.
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free pasta and ensure that other ingredients are GF-friendly.
MAKE AHEAD: Cook your pasta and let it cool completely before storing in an air-tight refrigerator for 3-5 days. In a bowl, combine your pumpkin puree and cheese and place in an air tight container to refrigerate overnight as well. Follow steps to cook the minced meatball/crumbles and pasta sauce and after STEP 4, remove sauce from heat, let cool and store in the fridge the day before. On the day of, remove everything to room temp., about 15-20 minutes and continue assembly STEPS.
SPICES/HERBS: If desired, you can reduce the amounts slightly. Please know that this recipe is bold in flavor, so feel free to adjust based on your tastebuds.